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Found 71 results

  1. As usual, I read through the many fishing reports and see the amazing pictures of anglers proudly posing with their catch. By the time I have finished looking at the photos for the fourth time, the “fishy” part of my brain is creating a new list of excuses that may convince my wife to let me go fishing. Once I have finished explaining how the tide will be perfect for the next few hours, the weather forecast could not get any better and the tackle shop just received fresh bait, she usually gives her approval. In a rush to get out the door before she changes her mind, I find myself quickly going through my mental list of surf fishing necessities. Before I know it, I am on the sand wishing I had spent a little more time on that mental list. Depending on where you fish, having to run back to your house or the nearest tackle shop may not be a big deal, however if you fish areas like the southern end of Assateague Island, having to admit to your fishing buddy how you managed to forget the bait knife is not a good feeling. Some anglers like to step out for an hour or two and they don’t need to take much with them. On the other hand, if you are like me and can’t help but fish until it hurts, there are many items you can bring that will ease the pain. First of all, make sure you know the license requirements, regulations and creel limits for the beach you will be fishing. It is also a good idea to keep a fish species reference guide with you to help identify your catch. If you are not sure what you have caught, safely remove the hook and get it back into the water as fast as possible. A good photo will last much longer than any fish you will catch, so don’t hesitate to snap a quick picture. You will need something to help carry your gear through the soft sand. A surf fishing cart can be a great investment for fishing spots such as the North end of Assateague Island. On some beaches, such as the federal side of Assateague Island, you are allowed to drive your vehicle on the beach. This is very convenient for longer fishing trips that require more fishing gear. Of course you will need your surf fishing rod and reel, sinkers, hooks, and other basic fishing tackle. Choosing the type of tackle needed always depends on the species of fish you will be targeting. There are numerous options when it comes to choosing your tackle, however don’t let it overwhelm you. Your best bet will be checking out the fishing reports on the Internet and spending some time talking to the folks at our local tackle shops. They will be able to help you get an idea which rigs are best for your tackle box. You are going to need a cooler with ice to keep your bait fresh. It does not take long for the sun and warm air to dry out even the freshest bait. In the spring, the most commonly used baits, such as bunker or peeler crabs are going to need to be cut into pieces, so having a strong, serrated knife and cutting board are essential. The springtime sun can feel very warm at home; however the ocean breeze can feel surprisingly cold! Make sure you dress appropriately and have a good idea of the weather forecast. Even on those cloudy days, you will get sunburned so don’t forget sunscreen. Having a hat and a pair of polarized sunglasses will not only help with the sun’s glare on the water, it will also keep you from getting the painful “squint eye” headache. Wearing a comfortable pair of waterproof waders will certainly help keep your legs warm and dry when that unexpected wave sneaks up on you right in the middle of your cast. After you have heaved your bait into the surf, you are going to need a sturdy sand spike to hold your rod. When choosing your sand spike, make sure the bottom of your rod easily fits into the sand spike. In my opinion, the longer the sand spike, the better. You will need to shove it down into the sand far enough to be able to put pressure against it without it falling over. As the tide comes in and the sand becomes soft, make sure you frequently check your sand spike to ensure it does not move easily. One of the most common critters you are likely to catch is the Clearnose skate. Trust me, having a quality pair of needle nose pliers and fishing gloves will come in very handy when removing the hook from these spine covered bottom dwellers, as well as many other fish. Being able to sit down and rest while you wait for that record fish to swim by will make your trip much more enjoyable. Although your cooler can also serve as a seat, I recommend a lightweight beach chair with a cup holder. It’s always a good idea to bring something to eat and plenty of fresh water for drinking and washing your hands. Most importantly, you must remember you will be in constant contact with things that can hurt you if you fail to respect them. Think about it, you are dealing with sharp hooks and lead weights that are being hurled at incredible speeds. Be aware of the power of the ocean and the heat of the sun. There is always the possibility that you will have to unhook many different types of critters and just about all of them have some sort of natural defense. Excitement and adrenaline can take over very quickly when surf fishing and you have to remember to stay focused. Always have a first-aid kit and cell phone, especially if you are fishing alone. Although it may not be on your list of surf fishing gear, being safe is without a doubt the last thing you want to forget. Whenever possible, bring a friend with you. Not only can they help you untangle that spiny dogfish from your line, but in my opinion, sharing a good day on the beach with a buddy is a reward in itself.
  2. Hat's off to the ECO's: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Denise M. Sheehan today announced the charging of a Shirley man with multiple violations of the Environmental Conservation Law after Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) observed the individual allegedly possessing 268 blackfish over the state’s fishing limit. "This arrest once again demonstrates the work that our ECOs do each day to protect the public, and our natural resources," Commissioner Sheehan said. "ECOs are tireless in their pursuit of violators of the State’s Environmental Conservation laws." ECOs observed Arthur C. Reilly, 46, of 39 Cypress Lane, Shirley as he returned to Senix Marina, Center Moriches aboard his commercial fishing vessel "Flora-Jo." Upon docking his vessel officers observed him offloading live blackfish into three holding pens that were in the water at the boat slip. In total, Mr. Reilly had 293 live blackfish, 268 over the state limit, and also had five striped bass and fillets of three other striped bass in a cooler on the vessel. The state’s striped bass season ended on December 15. After counting the blackfish, 268 live blackfish were released. Mr. Reilly was charged with possession of striped bass out of season and possession of blackfish in excess of the limit, all violations, with additional charges pending. In addition to the work done by Long Island area ECOs to investigate marine fishing violations, the DEC also formed a Marine Enforcement Unit in June 2005 under Commissioner Sheehan’s leadership. The MEU is specifically responsible for protecting the State's marine resources by enforcing State and Federal laws and regulations concerning habitat preservation and the recreational and commercial harvesting of fish, shellfish, and crustaceans. ECOs in the unit are assigned to the lower Hudson Valley, New York City and Long Island. The MEU includes 10 officers and an investigator.
  3. Chinese mitten crabs, first reported in the Chesapeake Bay, are more widespread than initially thought. Four crabs have now been caught in Delaware Bay during the last week of May 2007, and may occur in other waters of the U.S. east coast. The "furry-looking" claws distinguish the Chinese mitten crab from native crabs. This Chinese mitten crab was caught by a waterman fishing for Blue crabs in the Upper Chesapeake Bay on May 18. (Credit: Greg Ruiz, Smithsonian) In total, seven adult male mitten crabs have been documented from the two bays since 2005. Prior to this, the potentially invasive species had never been recorded from coastal waters of the eastern United States. The mitten crab is native to eastern Asia and has already invaded Europe and the western United States, where it has established reproductive populations. The crab occurs in both freshwater and saltwater. Young crabs spend their lives in freshwater and migrate to saltwater estuaries for reproduction. Named for the unusual thick fur-like coating on its claws, the mitten crab looks very different than native crabs and is easily recognized. It is listed as injurious wildlife under the Federal Lacey Act, due to its potential to cause ecological and economic damage. "We don't know the present status of this crab along the eastern U.S. coast" said Gregory Ruiz, senior scientist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. "At the moment, it is not clear whether these crabs are reproducing or established in the Mid-Atlantic region, or whether the captured crabs are just a few individuals that originated elsewhere." These crabs may have arrived in the ballast water of ships or through live trade. A Mitten Crab Network has been established to examine the abundance, distribution, and reproductive status of crabs in Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay and other estuaries along the eastern United States. The initial partnership between the Smithsonian lab, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife, is now being expanded to include resource managers, commercial fishermen, research organizations and citizens along the east coast. Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by Smithsonian.
  4. Atlantic - NOAA Announces Measures to Rebuild Blacknose Sharks, Manage Smooth Dogfish and End Overfishing of Shortfin Mako Sharks NOAA's Fisheries Service has outlined new measures to rebuild the populations of blacknose sharks, help end overfishing on shortfin mako sharks, and begin management of smooth dogfish. The public may review the Final Environmental Impact Statement on the measures, which are expected to go into effect this June "The new measures would help rebuild the population of blacknose sharks and allow sustainable fishing of other shark species in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea," said Eric Schwaab, NOAA assistant administrator for NOAA's Fisheries Service. "As top predators, sharks play an important role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem that supports a myriad of other species." The new measures would place smooth dogfish under federal management for the first time, beginning in 2012. This open access fishery involves an estimated 223 vessel operators who use gillnets to fish for smooth dogfish in waters from North Carolina to New England . Conservation and management of the species, fished for food and its fins, would allow NOAA to collect data on fishing effort and information on the shark's life history to better understand its role in a healthy ocean ecosystem. For more information please see the NMFS News Release.
  5. Fish Report 10/10/09 Triggerfish, Tog & ..Drum? Closure: RFA's Response Decoys For Sale Hi All, Very light crowds offering no fiscal relief; derned if it ain't fun though. Triggerfish have been the main target. They're almost out of here; very late to have them now. Been some wonderful fishing. Fall rules - we're tagging them under 11 inches, boxing the rest. Come to think of it, fall rules will remain until the state accepts management of this important fishery. Too busy with triggers to really get down to business with the tog. Today I decided to give it a little more effort.. Dang those fish are fun. Unforgiving too; we broke 3 off close to 10 pounds, one may have gone 12/13. I will have my toggin gear aboard come morning. Water temperature is slipping, that's key. Season opens back to 4 fish later, still at two now. Couple nice dinners in a pair of good tog. A fishery that folks love or hate; heck of a lot of fun if they're biting.. My customers have caught four black drum in almost 30 years of bottom fishing off Maryland's coast. All caught this week; three of them by Hurricane Murray. Talk about odd.. Hurricane 3 -- tens of thousands of others 1. Caught on triggerfish rigs, they weren't big, just 10 - 12 pounders. Cooked one, tagged the others.... The Recreational Fishing Alliance, RFA, is going to court over the sea bass closure. And not solely for this particular closing, they want to see clarity brought to the whole process. An honorable suit, the RFA is trying to raise money for their legal defense fund. If you're so minded the website Googles easily... Fair to say that I have a conservation minded client base, perhaps the most so for a party boat. Still, raising the size limit to 12 1/2 inches was bad for business. We had the highest release ratio this June of the last ten, maybe ever: 86.15%. Having seen the cbass stock grow fantastically at closer to 50% releases--even when there was no creel limit, throwing back almost 90% diminishes the experience as the enjoyable camaraderie of this type of fishing doesn't stop until the dishes are washed. Slowed by regulation and now closed, a coastal small-business economic disaster has been created by MRFSS data that no one believes: or should. I know the statistics are not meant to be a hard number - they're a spread. How it came to be that managers 'have to' use the centerpoints of catch estimates I do not know, but there --the centerpoint-- is the crux of the problem. That and with all this squirrel hunting, no one's gone to see if there's any trees.. Common sense regulation would carry the day better than data best handled with a wide pitch-fork. A couple years after the new federal fishing registry, MRIP, has been up, the back checking will make for some interesting reading. The firmer 'number of participants' license data, overlaid on field intercepts--real, actual fish counts--will show just how crazy some of these estimates have been. Fishing 7 days a week for tog, triggers--its a water temp thing--and whatever else we can find. The rail is limited to 15 for tog fishing; limited far more by other pressures. Now selling decoys I made 20 and more years ago on eBay. Rather my daughter's children had done that.. Sunrise, pleasant company, catch fish, maybe some big fish.. With all the ills in this world I could certainly have far, far worse. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 http://www.morningstarfishing.com/
  6. <DIV> Fish Report 3/23/10 Goin Fishing Flounder Regs CCA's "Train Wreck" Regular Tog Trips Sailing Through April 1st: (Light Winds Thursday 3/25!) Boat sells out at 14 - Green crabs provided - Cabin heated - Leave at 7:00 for these trips (or earlier if all are aboard) - Return no later than 3 - 3:30 (usually) - $100.00 buys a spot - Reservation a must, that phone number in signature - Email does not work for reservations - Call - Leave a good phone number--Cell--in case of cancellation. Tog Limit is 4 fish @ 14 inches - We encourage the release of all females under 16 (and some way bigger too!!) Fish Pool is decided by length so tagged and released fish can count too. Stay tied-up Easter Sunday. Have Coast Guard inspection in the second week of April - Will announce more trips when I get an all clear from them........... Hi All, There is a sigh of relief among the coast's flounder fishers today, Maryland DNR has reversed course and adopted a longer flounder season with a 19 inch fish. We can officially fish until Thanksgiving. Very nearly had a much shorter season. Atlantic Coast MSSA, Larry at the Coastal Fisherman newspaper, OC's State Delegate--Jim Mathias, myself & many other fishers, local press and even Candy Thompson at the Baltimore Sun set up an awful howl.. Different somehow.. Eh, having DNR listen isn't so new; It's having them dig in, see if there's substance in the complaint -- and respond. That's different. Pleasantly so. Can't swear to it, but I think the same thing is happening at the Federal level. I was on a huge rec-fish conference call last week with NMFS director Eric Schwaab & staff; From Alaska down and around to back up the East Coast it seemed pretty evident that accumulating errors in the data are pinching the system all over---many different problems all stemming from data. Nothing concrete yet in way of action, just possibilities: Lot of listening getting ready to happen. NOAA just announced that Russell Dunn has been appointed National Policy Advisor on Recreational Fisheries. That's a brand new position, reports directly to the boss-lady, Dr. Lubchenco. In the same press release they announced a 22 member Recreational Fisheries Working Group.. In mid-April there's a recreational summit in Silver Spring. Big possibilities. There still remains the darker possibility that 2010 was the year few party boats could survive. Black sea bass regulations are still up in the air. We rebuilt these fish with barely a care, first just a size limit, then increases in size with a 25 fish creel.. I still assert that we do not have a management plan on sea bass that can actually work, but even in its scientifically-impaired fashion we somehow have a better sea bass population than before management. We just can't go fishing. With cbass closed that fishing pressure shifts--All along this coast tautog fishing will not be made better because of the extreme reaction of closing sea bass over highly-suspect data. That's just the tip of it.. Plenty more fisheries in similar trouble. Closing sea bass--reacting to the data in such fashion--was just wrong. We ought to know by now that the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistics Survey--MRFSS--is being replaced for good reason. Just today one of the guys that is always digging into data, Buddy, sent me a bit of raw 2009 MRFSS flounder data -- 44 observed fish from private boats in July/August are tossed into MRFSS's computer---just 44 observed flounder.. These practitioners of the statistical dark-arts turn 44 into 45,281 flounder caught/kept and 595,190 caught/released.. Pow! That's so cool. Reminds me of the guy that used to sell tickets when I was in my early twenties.. Always biting -- Always filling up sacks.. Crunched a bit, just back of the envelope stuff; 45,281 flounder means 91 boats with 3 people aboard limited out everyday it was fit to go --- the rest of the boats had a solid bail of smaller ones. Hmmm.. that's not how I heard it. No, I don't think so.. Looked at another way: During the same period (July/Aug 2009) 725 flounder are said to have been caught/kept on the party boats that fish exclusively for flounder in the back bays and a few on the Chesapeake. MRFSS also has 18,325 thrown back--released. Using just their fish data and a ball park guess of clients, I estimate the back-bay party boats caught/kept 12.8 fish per day on average or 0.04 keeper fish per person. <DIV>Party boats turn in daily catch data so we should be able to see almost exactly what they caught. Sometimes it seems like MRFSS is using that data, sometimes not. Given my familiarity with the fishery I see no reason to seriously doubt these
  7. Fish Report 10/25/09 Two Tog Window Dressing Hi All, Fished near-bout all week with light crowds.. er, all put together it wouldn't have been a crowd. Did fish Tuesday to Friday though with Saturday's south at 30 ending the streak. Was fun. Bite alternated between steady all day to fussy with a couple good flurries. Different daily; just as you'd expect of tog. Had a couple folks aboard that had no experience with the fishery. Light rails.. its been a great time to learn; clients enjoying as much individual instruction as needed, I think. Even Cathy, who I've fished with since 1982, who can bring a tear to a grown man's eye while sea-bassing and surely did trout fishing back when: even though she fed the tog a steady supply of crabs for about an hour without a hook-up, Cathy can no longer say: "I can't catch tog." Poor tog... I had a voice in the creation of our tog regs. So did many others. Sea bass now closed - I'm hit by ricochet bullet I helped load. The two fish limit was to be an 'incidental catch' limit, slowing directed effort, easing pressure while many other species were available in the bays and ocean. Never anticipated cbass closed in the best time of year. Ever... Had I written the tautog regs it would have been: Ocean - 3 at 16 inches, only one of which could be female, dropping to one fish in summer. Coastal bays I'd slowly up the size limit - work it to 16 over a long period, six or eight years. I was recently saddened to learn that a local fishing club's highliner in the coastal bay-category had the lead with a 15 1/2 incher.Guy eats, sleeps & breaths tog.. Lot more ovarian bang-for-your-buck in the larger fish. We all 'know' more eggs means more fish. (fecundity study Himchek, NJ) Its not that simple of course. Those eggs have to survive. Then the juveniles have to survive. Then fishing starts to be a factor. I received an interesting email from Rich Wong of the MAFMC this summer who did his masters on juvenile tog. He argues that tautog populations are limited by suitable grasses & especially macro algae in their earliest weeks and months of life, this when they've first settled to bottom from the plankton stage. Little chameleons, these youngsters change color to match, exactly, the color of the growth they're in. His argument: more juvenile habitat in our estuaries would allow more fish to 'recruit' to the fishery--to grow up: that the species is not limited by hard-bottom reef habitat: rather, any bottleneck of stock expansion is in juvenile habitat limitation. I remain unpersuaded that juvenile settlement does not occur in the ocean, but Wong's work is certainly convincing of the importance of inshore habitat. Fair-many sea bass fall from that same patch of sky. Lot of folks working on this region's bays, get these factories back into full fisheries production. "Enviros" some call them... Meanwhile, all the coastal artificial reef we have built has been settled to some extent by tog. In our tag & release work there is no evidence of migration; a couple on walkabout, but nothing resembling sea trout, striped bass, or even sea bass: our region's tog are homebodies. Fishing now with a two fish limit, we're doing lots of tagging. Have had a couple good recaptures--old returns, fish with a story--and keeping at least a big fish dinner. Opens back to 4 come November 1st. Soon do a fish report on these 652 and counting tag returns. Wonderful developments in artificial reefing too. Need to match a $25,000 grant towards the Radford.. But not yet. Sea bass under martial law - addressing that issue more important, discussed below. Keep bringing a .22 to a sniper match; playing the fish-pool though Sam, Larry, Dennis, Henry & Brian are onboard.. Writings form rampart, logic grape & chain-shot, email as cannon - no surrender. Like Custer, I can't. Regards, Monty Warning: The following verbiage has been modified from its original format for profanity. Despite lead scientists' findings that the black sea bass quota could be safely doubled, the current stock assessment and statistical data review committee's recommendation has 'safe harvest levels' for 2010 the same as 2009: the lowest quota ever. Current MRFSS catch/discard mortality estimates hold that recreational fishers have far exceeded this year's quota. If I'm not mistaken, this means the sea bass season in 2010 will be greatly shortened with a smaller creel limit and larger size limit. And, if that's correct, then the piano-wire necktie will have done its job perfectly, a low-budget guillotine, though no other aspect of management has. This window-dressing, the numbers on paper or screen in offices where payroll is unquestioned; these estimates that are truly important to some very few people will be as they'd like, as if an architect could submit as-built drawings before the foundation's been poured; this tiny sub-set of the management community happy with their efforts while hundreds in business experience severe economic repercussions and thousands are denied access to a fishery they too have helped rebuild. Pretty numbers with ugly consequences, experienced in an ugly economy. This sometimes-uneasy alliance of regulators and fishery scientists call sea bass a "data poor fishery." They know full-well there are errors, not just in the catch estimates, but in the stock assessments too--the larger guess of just how many fish are out there. Scientific trawl data to estimate how many fish live where no trawl-net can be towed.. Recreational catch estimates discredited by the National Research Council, NRC, that guess how many have been caught by sport fishers.. An estimation of almost half our quota, not as catch, but dying of release mortality, this when I couldn't force an under-size sea bass to go belly-up with scientists aboard.. Inferior data, no matter how thick its binder, leads to poor decisions. So why in the Billy-Blue-Blazes haven't fishers been asked to provide supporting data that might better these decisions? Maybe there is a full-press effort to get accuracy from Vessel Trip Reports, VTRs. Maybe there is a dedicated effort to find truth with existing, but unused, data. If so, they're awful quiet about it. Ought to share the news. Make headlines around some parts. The fellow that looked at our assertions of over-estimated flounder catch last year reviewed the exact data set that had created the errors. He would not use our airplane over-flight boat counts, or any other reasonable data source we offered, to lower the number of shore and private boat fishers. We sought to compare known catch rates of party/charter fishers with an improved estimate of the number of other participants, and--refusing anything remotely anecdotal--got the same data looked at with the same result. Rote: mechanical repetition of something so that it is remembered, often without real understanding of its meaning or consequence. (Encarta) Above I had an example of juvenile tautog production being limited by habitat. My anecdotal assertions and video--YouTube search 'Common seafloor habitat mid-Atlantic' & also see Nick Caloyianis "Natural 3-D Bottom: Mid-Atlantic Bight"--these images not enough: coral reef in our region remains scientifically unsubstantiated.. The NRC has a book, albeit thin, titled "Effects of Trawling and Dredging on Seafloor Habitat" that has multiple descriptions of habitat damage. The American Fisheries Society has a book, thick--could be used for self-defense, is--entitled "Benthic Habitats and the Effects of Fishing" with numerous examples worldwide of habitat loss. Yet repetition of known-to-be-safe statements by rote leads to this sentence from a recent MAFMC Press Release titled: MPA Designations moving forward. 10/19/09 "...3.) For fishing gear impacts - the Council should adopt its prior determination that hydraulic dredges may adversely impact EFH but that the impacts are temporary and minimal..." There are areas where that is a true statement. There are also habitats, some already lost, none already found, some completely gone for forty and more years, where "temporary and minimal" may understate the stern towed gear's effect. Every square yard of reef has a production value many times greater than sand. Some of this production, from the most sizable boulders and, as in Russian roulette, those bottoms that simply haven't been impacted in a long time, is still enjoyed by modern fishers. Much of it though has been lost and will only be enjoyed by future fishers if we accept the task of finding and restoring it. The production of our many artificial reefs is shared, not cherished nor even recognized, amongst all. The loss of our natural reefs' production, through reduced catch, is shared by all too. Management's single, laser-like focus on catch restriction--and its use of poor data to base regulatory decisions on--has brought my industry close to death. Now, after 12 years of federal sea bass management we are denied access: closed, not in a time of crisis for the fishery, but for a minor paperwork crisis of dubious origin that coincides a national economic crisis causing intensifying effect. It is management's refusal to find, protect and enhance Essential Fish Habitat--this a clinically diagnosable denial of restoration biology: their unwillingness to look deeper, search harder, for positive results in regional stocks that have--though accidently--already occurred: to model means of maintaining very high spawning stocks plainly evident in the fishery and use those models for betterment of commercial and recreational opportunity: and, finally, to use regional stock divisions--regional quotas--as a decisive and fundamental management tool supported by science that meets any gold-standard test. I find the absence of this type of work negligent, especially since 'more of the same' has proven disastrous. I believe its inclusion, the embracing of restorative work instead of relying solely on fishing reduction, would send the Mid-Atlantics' fisheries well beyond rebuilt; that management has no concept of what is achievable and, as of now, has no firm tactic to achieve anything other than temporary restorations, stock oscillations, in which no business can survive. Forget the window-dressing. Side with jobs, not problematic fishery data. Pull those research boats out of their NASA-like deep trench research. Put them to works of immediate economic importance. Find the natural reef habitat that is and once was. Build more too; its easy. Seek realistic catch data using the knowledge of those deeply involved with recreational fisheries. And reopen sea bass before regulatory mortality climbs near 100% - for fishers, not fish. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 http://www.morningstarfishing.com/
  8. Fish Report 10/29/09 Tog A CBass Prediction Wheat Field Hi All, Weather.. lots of weather. Not as bad as weather gets, but plenty bad enough to keep us in port. Tog should cooperate nicely - water temp dropping, mixing. Season opens back to 4 fish on November first. Going every chance we get - even with the very smallest of crowds - even if crew outnumber crowd. Calling for 10 knots in a long-period ground swell Friday... I listened to the House Sub-Committee on Oceans testimony Tuesday. My Congressman is on that Committee. He's heard from me. Brilliant people, especially Dr. Murawski--but human--and a guy I suspect is looking for a huge Government contract for monitoring catch made up the first panel. The second panel was fishers, mostly well-spoken and to the point. One group quite proud, the other angry. I was dismayed to hear what sounded like a verbatim recitation of a Pew press event from mid-summer coming from a NOAA scientist. The RFA's council, Mr. Moore, did a fine job. I thought his the best of the lot. Still, as the panels finished and the questions subsided.. I knew what it was to feel the wake of a passing freighter - while stranded in a life raft. No rescue - not this time.. Perhaps the financial distress caused by this "Emergency Closure" will be a catalyst for improving management. Tagging studies being definitive, habitat fidelity solidly established, dividing the mid-Atlantic into 3 or 4 regions/zones and splitting the quotas/allotments is absolutely necessary. This is the most critical change needed: Create regionally controlled quotas for winter to ensure that massive over-fishing does not occur on a single regional sub-stock. Apparently, sea bass abundance to our north is where ours was 5 years ago, at least according to the data. Remember, the need for some regulation was so obvious that fishers acted. In Maryland we had a 6 year head start on management, our 9 inch size limit giving us a solid lead when federal management came. Our stock grew incredibly soon after the creel limit was introduced, and then collapsed. In 2003 sea bass were so abundant I honestly thought we were nearing the habitat's holding capacity. I suspect what happened to our fish will now continue time after time, regionally. The currently-peaking northern area will experience heavy trawl pressure in January, February and March because it is the most valuable part of the stock. Bigger sea bass are worth more per pound, that's where the money is: it will be targeted. This heavy pressure, recreational included, on a regional stock; this mature cbass stock with the males all grown into legal size, and virtually none sub-legal, will get hit heavily and start to topple. Removal of the males, furthered by continued--even increasing--recreational and nearshore artisanal fishing in spring, will create a spawning shortfall come summer. Imbalanced, that area's cbass population will no longer replenish faster than fishing is removing--regional collapse then unforestallable. Meanwhile, other areas will be in better population phase, have more numerous fish. Statistics which only deal in coastwide stock assessments will camouflage on paper the heavily pressured sub-stock's problem. Unnoticed in the whole of the coastal data set, that regional fishery then collapses to below size-limit. The cycle, the rebuilding, begins anew as more small sea bass transition to male and create a new spawning stock. In aquarium settings sea bass transition very rapidly from female to male when a single male is removed from amidst females. That is not what I observed here after our most recent collapse in early 2004. Males never completely absent, it wasn't until 2008 that they were abundant, far more so this year--most sub-legal. From Cape May to Chincoteague we are well into the upturn--and would have enjoyed it far more had the size limit remained 12 inches. In 3 years, maybe 2, we'll be where the northern region is now; where we were in 2003. In 3 or 4 years we start all over. Unless its sooner. Or it gets fixed. Shutting us down on sea bass was, and remains, rubbish. Some are willing to peel back the watery veil and have a look. Most--including the power centers--are all about paper crossing a desk. No scholarly work exists with our natural reefs on them. While I have written several papers, made video: its anecdotal.. There's virtually no scholarly knowledge of mid-Atlantic natural seafloor habitat. There's no paper to cite. Without efforts to find out what habitat is missing, protect what remains, and restore at least the natural footprint of reef in the mid-Atlantic; the cycle I've described above could worsen depending on habitat impacts. You can not restore squirrels to a wheat field, nor can you restore reef-fish to barren bottom. A pile of horse-feathers is any claim of rebuilding reef-dwelling species without knowledge of their habitat. Managing sea bass is all about controlling fishing pressure on discreet habitats; its succesful restoration measured via the regional holding capacity of its reefs. The bold assertion of grand economic gains for survivors of this regulatory tempest--fisheries quickly rebuilt--are hollow, if not disingenuous; disappearing into thin air upon realization that we now manage fish by sky-fall, not reef production. Coastwide catch-restriction creates oscillation in sea bass abundance. The peaks will remain temporary, and the valleys more economically destructive, without a solid foundation of habitat and a method of maintaining a sub-legal spawning stock.. Unless you just close the fishery. Bloody fine bit of management that. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 http://www.morningstarfishing.com/
  9. Fish Report 11/6/09 Toggin Better Than OK Sea Bass in Converse Hi All, Couple good tog of late, tad north of 10 pounds. Just a very few. Very steady on stout mediums, the 3 to 7 pound fish. Ran through all my tags - now reloaded - tagged a 21 3/4 inch sea bass, bunch of others.. Fished with 2 people on Wednesday. Wore 'em out - in early. Grind it out Thursday but well worth the effort. All limits save one, that though we threw back plenty of tagged legals. Blown out Friday but did manage to site anchors at Kelly's for the coolest reef unit I have ever seen. I'm telling you, though small, the tog are gonna party there like cowhands at a Nevada chicken ranch - its going to be a tog factory. Sinking Saturday morning - weather permitting. Have decided to sell out at 12 for toggin. Getting everyone on the structure is what this fishery is about - less is better. Stick with what I know: Crabs provided - sell out at 12 people - leave at 7 - Saturday's different - leave the best phone contact possible with reservation staff in case of bad weather.... Would prefer to be selling 22 tickets for sea bass--often busier in November than August--but NMFS perceived there was an emergency: Overfished Recreational Quota - Closed for 180 Days. Seems the fellows up north outfished the party boats by a wide margin, private boats catching 5.34 cbass for every one caught on a party boat. That would defy belief here off Maryland's coast; I can't speak to it up there however. Coastwide, way over quota they say.. I carried 2 MRFSS interviewers the other day. A perfect data capture - pristine. No doubt that NMFS believes their MRFSS data. But what happens between that perfect interview, intercept they call it, and a large area catch estimate is.. Driving me crazy. Seems it would be so easy to truth, if they wanted the truth - really wanted it. Not a whisper of that that I've heard. They trust the MRFSS data. Trust it enough to treat their clients like pirates did traitors: economically, I may as well be buried to my neck in sand, watching the tide come in. The fishers that Pew thinks are going to enjoy a pleasant life of quiet bioeconomic stability wait, watching from behind the pirate's island palms as this cohort of fishers meets their watery death. NMFS: This data's solid, more than good enough to issue an economic death sentence - fishery closed. ..And now, like the brown eyed children in Jane Elliot's 3rd grade class, to most of the public and virtually all of the environmental community, we greedy evil fishers have perpetrated yet another vile foulness upon this ocean: 'You deserve to be closed, animal.' I have worked far too hard at restoration to suffer willfully uninformed bureaucratic ineptitude casting me as a dolphin slayer in some tidal pool.. The folks that own this town are all in tongues.. quota-restoration-Magnusson-big environmental rebuilt fisheries-quota-stop overfishing-over quota-quota-economic pot of gold at the end when restored-quota too high-overfishing.. worked themselves into a tizzy I think, their serotonin release coming at great cost to fishers. Honestly, if rational thought held sway, if this was really about fish and not some pretty paperwork decorating an inbox, if the management community were truly concerned with black sea bass populations and not just another footnote in their flowery report to congress, if restoration of a fishery--whose definition is never just a fish population; no, defining fishery must include the entirety of its environmental, economic & societal tendrils as well as those fish stocks which it uses: this current black sea bass restoration emergency would not, could not, be where cbass fishers are having good catches: no, if this system were fine-tuned and functioning, the emergency would be where fishers did not catch sea bass, not where they did--those skunked warranting attention, not those slamming 'em--emergency management where local collapse of a local stock known is occurring, this need-of-work plain as stench coming from the head door on a rough day; where regional absence of sea bass represents very real trouble, proactive management now afield looking for disruptors of their fishery.. Perhaps that is exactly what they would do though--show concern for low catches--if they believed Maryland really only caught 1,355 sea bass or Delaware's fleet of partyboats caught none at all. Maybe they'd be all over it.. but are, laughingly, content to toss out obviously bad catch estimates: the low ones. That we might have the same fate for overestimates.. Estimates high protected by the brotherhood of tongues, estimates low of no consequence. The worst trouble businesses can have is being perpetrated by those in government who are tasked with sustaining them. No one questions the validity of catch-restriction as a tool: This fishery can not be managed as it is. ALS and Federal tag returns unambiguous; it must be split into regions. When a lot of fishers complain about data do not suppose management to have suffered injustice to good work - something's wrong with the data. When trawl net surveys have great difficulty catching but the fewest sea bass it is because those fish live on corals, places where nets can not go--or--where operators of conscience know they should not go. Data-poor does not have to make fishers poor. Use solid catch/release data to model the stock. Sea bass change sex according to the size of the male spawning population. This can be used to take oscillation out of regional populations, or it can be ignored to make the swings wilder. To close this fishery based on strict adherence to law while conveniently ignoring the habitat provisions in that same law should be punishable by law. There's plenty here that needs to get straightened out. Irritating enough as is; it will get far worse by spring. Unless it gets better. A fisherman - I know that's possible. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 http://www.morningstarfishing.com/
  10. Fish Report 11/12/09 Tog Limit Blues Succession Failings of Ivory Tower Fisheries Economics If you took what I know about large-scale economic theory and stuffed it in a gnats ear it would rattle around like a BB in a box-car.. Hmm, I wonder what the good Professor knows about fish and fishing.. Hi All, Saturday we had as fine a start as could be had, folks spread around the whole rail: a military dress-right-dress, not only with left arms extended--rods too--and all nicking away at tog. Well, almost all, one fellow was solid into cbass no matter what-for crab he baited. He generated some good tags at least; then, later, turned his day around and crushed 'em.. Slick calm in the morning, coming saucy headed home - fair wind, not a worry. Rode over the newly sited NRG Reef that Capt. Greg/OCRF sank that same day, 11/7. Engineered by good fortune and clever endeavor this one. The pieces just came together at the right time - habitat complexity writ very large - wonderful. When we 'discover' what reefing can do we'll be engineering on purpose, maximizing the production from each unit's footprint. Whether its oysters, corals, or a specific species of fish; we'll learn to build what's best and do so with a mind to succession--growth succession; the time sequence of organisms actually growing on reef substrate. A year old reef set may have crazy-mad mussels growing on it, but that won't be what's there 40 years from now... Ah yes, more fishing. Sunday we had a stunningly beautiful day. Really, you had to just look at the ocean and be thankful. But we limited out by 9:30. Ain't no way I'm going in: not yet. Lit up the big radar and--pow--scarcely 2 1/2 miles further offshore worked a flock of gannets, the WWII Avenger-like torpedo dive bombers of the marine bird world that add a visual and audible component to the fishing, their cacophony of calls either to alert others to food or warn them to get out of the way as they--whoosh--plunge into their feast; the sudden swirls of fish--unexpected--only adding to the experience.. Nice. Caught all the blues we wanted, yet far-far less than a limit; headed for home and still got in early. Monday we were a tad further out and nearly limited when the tog bite quit. ..radar ain't fair. Those birds pulled me 7 miles down the beach before it was over.. Blues. Wonderful fun. One young fellow struggling.. what's up with that fish..foul-hooked? Dylan's too tired? Ah, no. Ritch: "Capt! Capt! Gimme the big net!" Forty four inch striper. Amidst these many blues we caught two very large striped bass. Tagged & released both because they were caught in the MPA, arguably the largest recreational no-fish MPA in the world, this the striped bass closed area from 3 to 200 miles offshore - all of the EEZ. If I wrote the rules we wouldn't have kept them anyway--too big--but we'd be able to take one-a-man if ever that fortunate. Its been a no-take, closed to recreational fishing area for 24 years because commercial fishers exploited a loop-hole--then state regs didn't count in federal waters--so the fed slammed the door on 'em.. And us. Dang thing's stuck. Some say stripers are a rebuilt fishery.. Perhaps this is where Pew's "economic benefits accruing to recreational fishers through rebuilding" starts to occur.. but just not yet, not after 24 years. Lot more on that below... Buoy Report: 44009 - 15 NM East Fenwick Island, DE. - Tuesday - 11/10/09 - 5:50 PM - East wind 1.9 knots - 1.3 foot seas - 13 second period. Coming in from a dive trip--an artificial reef monitoring trip--greasy-calm, ocean smooth as I've ever seen, the calmest calm-before-the-storm you could hope to witness. Had spent the day anchored over a reef similar to what the Radford--a 560 foot Destroyer set to sink next summer--might look like in the future; somewhat alike but, at 165 feet, smaller. Nick Caloyianis and Clarita Berger were aboard, their underwater video work seen around the world. Just unloading their van worthy of marvel; carefully packed, Rubik's Cube perfect: no fisher ever had such equipment. But then, we do try to stay in the boat. Anyway, Nick--joshing--says he'd "like to drop right on the smoke stack." I reply, "How about the wheelhouse?" Set enough anchors for toggin.. Get a little practice. They came back up from their first dive thrilled. Water warm, visibility wonderful, fish and growth in abundance.. And had down-lined directly to the wheelhouse. An extremely late school of spadefish--their numbers huge by the standards of these past two decades though of very modest size some three decades ago--swam all around the upper structure of the once & now again proud Coast Guard ship Red Beech. Breathtaking video--at least for a lover of marine life--still photos; a jelly in full bioluminescence, its lit up colors neoning along in a stream of natural wonder; those spades caught broadside to the lens, a yellow tagged sea bass trying to evade these filming intruders.. Should have pieces up on Maryland's reef website soon. Truly splendid. All a sign of what this reef-site centerpiece, the Radford, might look like in a decade; just a glimpse of her in several decades. Then, sun having set and dockside, Clarita, with her thousands of hours diving, experiences revelation: "Those spadefish could have been among the 5 inch juveniles we saw on artificial reef in the Chesapeake.." ..this the same bay that is missing 99% of its natural hard-bottom oyster reef. That calm buoy report now replaced by Storm Warnings, gusts to 52 knots, and 23 foot waves with an 11 second period; its fantastically rough. Going fishing for tog when the weather breaks. If we limit - or get all we want - we can hope for blues to finish the day. Below is a direct refutation of the report by Professor Gates published--and presumably funded--by the Pew Environment Group, titled: One Last Chance: The Economic Case for Rebuilding Mid-Atlantic Fish Populations. Fishing is more fun, but derned if there doesn't need to be some truthing too. 'Sancho, my lance.' 'This will be worse than the adventure of the windmills,' quoth Sancho. Is what it is.. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 http://www.morningstarfishing.com/ 11/12/09 Capt. Monty Hawkins' refutation of: "One Last Chance: The Economic Case for Rebuilding Mid-Atlantic Fish Populations" Professor Gates, University of Rhode Island. Alright Professor, You have presented "One Last Chance" while I am at that exact point. You presume to tell me/us how fisheries restoration is going to play out in the Mid-Atlantic, how "an additional 570 million per year in perpetuity in direct economic benefits" is being missed out on by our reluctance to just STOP overfishing & rebuild. Now granted, if you took what I know about large-scale economic theory and stuffed it in a gnats ear it would rattle around like a BB in a box-car.. Hmm, I wonder what the good Professor knows about fish and fishing.. About marine ecology.. About where little fishes come from.. And about the whittling away, sometimes bulldozing, hydraulically liquefying, Joint Foreign Fishing Venture selling of our original production engine - the habitat, that Essential Fish Habitat of Magnuson that we just can't seem to grasp unless we can wade into it.. I think the good Professor is standing slam in the middle of my proverbial Nebraska wheatfield, stretching horizon to horizon, telling me how hunting controls are going to rebuild the squirrels: how a rebounding economy of returning hunters filling motels, buying dinners, breakfasts, thermoses full of coffee, guns of every sort, ammo, dropping serious coin on ATV four-wheelers so they can get deep in the woods quicker, buying homes closer to the....woods? No. Its a wheatfield. This giant wheatfield ain't gonna restore no squirrels. From the Professor's Report: In the recreational sector, rebuilding these four fish populations {black sea bass, bluefish, butterfish and summer flounder} would increase landings by 24 percent more per year than status quo management, with an economic value of approximately $536 million per year (in 2007 dollars) in perpetuity. These direct economic benefits would have potential secondary impacts in the region through increased income, sales and jobs for related businesses such as bait and tackle shops, lodging and restaurants. Thus, the estimates reported here are conservative and the actual benefits are likely to be more expansive. These results provide analytical evidence that there is both significant value in rebuilding fish populations and foregone economic benefits from delaying rebuilding. Bragging about a 24% increase? That's the plan? We're toast. Estuaries great & small, and our present marine seafloor the wheatfield, our fish the squirrels: the professor and all the great might of his fantastically deep pocketed sponsor, Pew, a sponsor who can get the NMFS's Chief Scientist to repeat word-for-word from this report; he, they, and all others who believe these words are simply missing a supremely significant point: Repairing the impact of up to several centuries of extensive habitat loss, though mostly from the last 60 years, is an incredibly important part of fisheries restoration. Read the whole report - it Googles - habitat ain't there. This economic theory is either misleading--dishonest with a purpose--or ill-informed of fisheries ecology. You can't spend five seconds reading about salmon without crossing into deforestation and dam construction: yet sea bass? Their habitat is apparently unworthy of inspection. We can not simply take the heat off fish populations and expect a glorious revival. We must do the heavy lifting, the habitat restoration; its not going to happen by reviewing 15 year old studies of recreational fishing's economic impacts. Fiddle. I bet a regionally based management plan would, based on the factual previous 4 years catch, increase sea bass catch by 378.26%. Still, I have to agree, if you cut off all fishing for these species they would rebuild to the holding capacity of the remaining habitat - even higher. By today's standards that would be a lot of fish. I saw a preschooler hold his shoelace as his mother tied the knot, "I did it!" Big hugs.. Like so, reducing fishing mortality to nearly zero increases populations. I would call that neither fishery restoration nor management. These theoretical stocks now rebuilt to new heights, an economic state of grace, they find their reproductive success too fruitful: and, outpacing the available prey base, they crash. Where too is the diverted effort, the fishers patiently fishing other species while this nest-egg of income 'in perpetuity' gathers interest: these fishers are targeting something.. Tautog? Are we rebuilding in a vacuum? Where will this latent pressure go? As Yogi Berra said, "In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice, there is." Where are fishers to shelter while regulatory nirvana, this magical stasis, is being created.. There is no shelter. We fish - or else.. Using recreational catch data well-known to be rather barnyardy to effectively reduce fishing pressure as much as possible, while spouting fisheries restoration theory that can't pass simple scrutiny, represents railroading in the grandest tradition; its not modern management - its all the brute force money can buy, not the best use of available science.... The four fish in the study: Butterfish? Can't speak to it. Bluefish are not scarce, but they do not use our region as they once did: now only migrating through, not staying far into summer. A case for global warming? Eh, the summer spadefish and amberjacks of southern seas have diminished more too - used to frequently have the three species together. Lessened prey availability/findability a cause I think. Importantly, the blues we do have are remaining much further offshore - in clearer water - seas less sullied by the regurgitation of the region's un-biofiltered major estuaries. Sea Bass management has created an abundance/scarcity stock oscillation that will repeat every 4 to 7 years by region depending on industrial winter effort. This "coastwide" plan fails to accept that no sea bass swim coastwide; they'll only migrate a small distance then return, often exactly--with the precision of GPS--to their home reef. The economic restoration of this fishery is not going to be found in broad-scale management or economic theory. It will never be well-restored, or bettered, without shouldering habitat management. Summer flounder are at a population never seen in my life, nor that of any other party boat skipper that ever sailed from Ocean City, Maryland. Never targeted in my industry here prior to 2005, we now spend upwards of 100 days a year targeting these fish on the still-unfound reef system. Far beyond fully restored, we fishers await stock assessments that account this apparently new use of habitat--but it isn't new, its an adaptation: biological stock assessment having caught up, fishers could then enjoy the fruits of this success. The worst enemy of fish and fisheries is ignorance. There's coral out there in the mid-Atlantic. Bryozoans, hydrozoans, tube worms, sea whip, star coral; lots of varieties: my success at fishing depends on finding these emergent growths--reefs if you will, and you must.. for they are. Those now barren bottoms that once yielded catches unimaginable to modern fishers, whose fish were caught without benefit of modern navigational equipment; they must be accounted for in restoration economics. But aren't. Can't. At least not yet. Habitat's not been found. Science sure hasn't - the councils don't seem to want to - fishers have to. I await an unveiling of a large project by The Nature Conservancy in the coming weeks. Newcomers to the marine eco-wars; we may well see that their monumental effort at GIS mapping reveals information on habitat never before quantified; a peeling back of the veil through computerized mapping.. Management's success can not, must not, focus on catch restriction alone. Being blind to prey availability, water quality, seafloor habitat, estuarine habitat & more is never going to offer the least hope of driving fishers toward bioeconomic stability. In fact, accelerating along our present course is, right now, driving the whole industry off an economic cliff. Wonderfully large-scale spontaneous generation--sky-fall--as our primary fisheries restoration plan isn't where I thought we'd be in 2009. It is my strongest desire that some of the world's leading fisheries ecologists hear this plea for sanity in fisheries management and, using new tools, attack this economic thesis in a more scholarly fashion: that a truer path to restoration based on sound biological ecosystem restoration will emerge.. It will surely include catch restriction, but in no way rely exclusively upon it. A boundless din of opinion across the fisheries, from Eskimo whaling captain to Virgin Island reef fisher to bloodworm digger in New England; the great truth of habitat production is all but absent in the ever-present fight for more quota. From the many environmental groups now concerned with the fate of these fisheries are a few that have habitat in mind, at the fore even; but they lack the strength, the voice, the ability to be heard above that din that the behemoths posses. Rebuild now these giants cry, economic splendor awaits - catch shares for all! Billions of dollars vs. some several millions vs. some hundreds of thousands vs. a fisher that can still afford an internet connection. Real world, real seas, real habitat loss: absent is a real foundation of habitat to support their restoration goals. I believe that fisheries management in broad spectrum can fully restore fisheries. Using habitat technologies & protections, I believe that some species can be made more abundant than ever before. I also believe that we are not going to succeed in the least with the present strategy. And, if we remain unconcerned with these other aspects of restoration our last chance has already occurred; that "One More Chance" will become someone else's first chance. And their chance too is doomed without deepening efforts of management to directly grapple these many habitat issues. Regards, Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 http://www.morningstarfishing.com/
  11. Fish Report 12/4/09 Windy Toggin Fixing It Before MRIP WRITE A LETTER: Red snapper have now been closed to recreational fishing for 6 months too. The storm grows. There is a Bill in DC called the "Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act of 2009" - Hand Write - Call - Support it. Some say 'environmentalists' must oppose this Bill.. What am I if not a staunch marine environmentalist; who would you point to and say they are more so, at least if based on real habitat 'environmentalism'.. These 'end stage' rebuilding plans are to fisheries what stun-bolting & exsanguination are to the cattle industry; carried out with the same precision too. We can do better than wiping out recreational fishers for a temporary population increase in fish. We will be able to do a lot better when MRIP comes online. And a whole lot better indeed should habitat become a consideration.. Write to your DC Representatives. Hi All, A terrible accident, an 18 car pile-up, occurs in Providence, RI. Ambulances, firetrucks, volunteers directing traffic, live video coverage by helicopter - horrible news for some families. If the 'Federal Bureau of Traffic' handled this accident in Rhode Island the same way we now manage sea bass, highway workers would have to shut down major highways around New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Hampton Roads, Baltimore... Just as that Providence accident isn't going to have any effect on distant highways, neither shall fishers in the northern range of sea bass catching the whole coast's quota factually effect the more southerly regions' stocks. That they reportedly did catch the whole coast's quota is indicative of just how out-of-touch management is with the fishery: The cbass's habitat fidelity is unquestioned; A) The coast's quota--if accurately assessed--should never be able to be caught in one region. B) Without regional assessment, regional quota division and regional catch/bycatch controls, success in sea bass management will only be temporary at best...... Monday, November 30th: We finished the sea bass season having not killed one in almost 2 months. Did throw some back though.. Hmm. That 25% discard mortality will count against us.. Ludicrous. I bet that dead-discard rate was created early on, just an off-the-cuff estimate when sea bass management was a thorn, a pain; not at all a fishery worthy of concern. That's why it never had any regulation until '96 or later. On my party boat our release mortality is less that 1 in 200. Its not 50 dead-discards out of 200 - maybe just one. Maybe. I have scientists that fish with me that are on the black sea bass monitoring committee; they can not argue that assertion - I carried them just this year to deep water, 125 feet, to examine this very issue - we could not kill a fish on release. Yet, according to management, we "killed" more fish this year throwing them back than we dropped in hot oil. That's insulting. And ripping the recreational industry apart..... The Maryland offshore tog season starts January 1st so we pounded 'em pretty good this last month.. Didn't want to, but payment obligations must come before the mores of self-imposed conservation. Dern sure it was fun, even in westerly gusts that had to be pushing 50. Really, Friday the 27th, tucked up under the beach; you could sure feel the wind but it didn't have enough fetch to build a set. Pretty cool to see the whitecaps vaporize when hit by the strongest gusts. We limited-out on virtually every tog trip this fall; certainly could have save for legal fish going back tagged. Lots and lots of tags. Returns show a very solid 3 inches of growth in 1 1/2 years and even some movement--unusual--where tog swam 1/2 or 1/4 mile to colonize new reef. Would that we could know whether that was a choice to wander a touch, or they were being forced out through some bull/harem mechanism.. Main thing is: New reef gets colonized while older artificial reef sets continue to flourish. That's working. To make it work better still I sited a load of concrete today with my boat on a small barge that we reefed over a decade ago. A featureless flat-steel top - it hasn't made for very good reef. We had a similar situation with two huge barges a half mile away.. no production. After siting concrete units atop and around - the barges exploded with life. That concrete my crew and I put down today with pinpoint accuracy will, I'd wager, create a hundred-fold rise in production on that small featureless barge - literally a hundred more fish to every one that's there now, maybe more. They'll spawn too. There's an awful lot of naked, flat, featureless natural hardbottom off this coast.. It was once productive. The technology exists to find it - map it - restore it. GIS mapping is an incredible tool -- And, since it would take a lot of chalk to show the tax revenue difference between fishing and energy development, guvmint's suddenly paying attention.. Look up MARCO (Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean) - Some didn't pay 'em any mind because they have no influence on fish quotas; I was making comment early on because you can't have energy development without serious habitat considerations. Right now folks deep on the inside of fisheries management are advocating a ten-plus ton surf-clam dredge with a hydraulic water pressure cutting head dragged across the bottom "may adversely impact EFH but that the impacts are temporary and minimal..." That's a quote from a recent MAFMC Press Release. As a bonus, we don't officially have any Essential Fish Habitat anyway. How nice for them. However, no one claims that corals won't be impacted by oil wells or windmills. MARCO offers a chance to sneak a little truth into the discussion..... I estimate tautog in MD's ocean fishery live: 85% artificial reef - 14.5% accidental shipwreck - 0.5% natural reef. In the coastal bays, unless there's one living in a shell-pile somewhere, the population lives on 100% man made reef.. You reckon that's been factored into tautog management's "rebuilding" plan? That we are making more tog through increased reef habitat; through increasing the area's holding capacity where they spawn and grow to maturity? That all this extra habitat reduces fishing pressure on existing habitat.. That diluting effort is far better than concentrating it? That we recreational fishers might get credit for that? You reckon? Yeah, me neither.. I am positive that there are far more tog available to recreational fishers off Maryland's coast than since the worst of the reef loss took place - gut sez the '60s. Long time back.. Population's growing - better. Done well, there'll be fantastically more tog in ten years. Will. Oh yeah, sea bass spawn and grow to maturity on those reefs too. Too danged much fun not to leave it better than we found it... Resume toggin January 1st. Trips will be announced via email on very short notice because of weather concerns. Meanwhile, write that letter. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 http://www.morningstarfishing.com/
  12. Resume toggin January 1st. Trips will be announced via email on very short notice because of weather concerns. Fish Report 12/14/09 Another Chance? MRFSS DDT & MRIP Hi All, The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council - MAFMC - just sent a press release listing the sea bass season as June and September 2010, 25 Fish - 12 1/2 inches.. And I do mean June & September only - closed the other 10 months. In the press release, however, was a small glimmer of hope: In addition, the Council voted to convene a joint meeting of the Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) and the Black Sea Bass Monitoring Committee to share available data and relevant information regarding the 2010 black sea bass recommendations for purposes of allowing the Regional Administrator to consider whether it would be appropriate to adjust the black sea bass quota through an emergency action. Perhaps, just maybe, there's a chance to bring some sensibility to this plan. The joint Monitoring Committee did want to double the sea bass quota for 2010 before the Science and Statistical Committee shut 'em down.. I'm confident that it will depend on readers and others.. I will explain what I think is wrong with the sea bass management plan below.. Beneath the report are some detailed pointers on where to focus comment should you be so inclined....... NOW: The Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey - MRFSS - Which everyone sez as Murfs. Crazy Uncle Murfs hasn't much time left in this world. We've known he's senile for some while; that's why the Fed spent a pile of money creating MRIP, which stands for Murfs Rest In Peace. Eh, no.. Um.. Marine Recreational Information Program.. That one, the one with the 'registration' so we can actually count how many people went fishing and for what... Locked up all the firearms.. but you can't think of everything. Ol' Uncle Murfs was down by the barn and found an ancient sack of DDT. He's been mixing it with the salad dressing over at NMFS/NOAA - has 'em thinking that now is a great time to put faith in MRFSS' LAST SET - the last set of annual data from a dying program; just as it was finally given a dishonorable discharge by the National Research Council.. It was MRFSS that gave us the famous MD 2007 September/October shore summer-flounder landings - party boats had 1,700 fish, fishers from shore had 36,017.. Those boys were on point too, was just the year before that they were skunked in the same 2 month period. I was selling tickets for $100.00 - the beach/bridge were free - and that's just the error in one fishery for 2 months. We paid dearly for allowing those numbers to see the light of day; they were subsequently treated as gospel. Crazy Uncle Murfs has some sea bass numbers for us to look over for 2009 - and these are directly from the "SCIENCE & STATISTICAL COMMITTEE" data sets. MD party boats caught 1,300 sea bass - private boats ZERO - Charter boats ZERO... Standing in a Delaware sports betting parlor we might be able to arrange a wager.. Puttin' my coins on the 'MRFSS is wrong' side. Isn't much above the early American Salem witch trials.. Really, the data is that wrong. Economically, they're feeding us the witch-cake, not the dogs. Its a terrible thing to call science. But it's not just Uncle Murfs' dry-sponge from the Green Mile. No, I think the sea bass plan is in need of a serious overhaul. Easiest part is the release mortality figure - I guarantee this is a relic from the earliest meetings, when sea bass were just a thorn.. That 25% dead release ratio was pulled straight from thin air. I have carried a lot of scientists/biologists just this year to look at exactly that and couldn't kill a fish on release.. Even in 125 feet of water - ZERO mortality. 25% Release Mortality is a terrible thing to call science. Especially since we're throwing more back than ever: That if that percentage were correct we'd be killing far more by throwing them back than what we drop in the Fry-Daddy. We are paying sticker price: Almost makes Uncle MRFSS look saintly.. And finally, it is my gravest concern that the biggest fault with the black sea bass rebuilding plan is that it is 'coastwide.' I wrote of it in 2003, that our stock could get pummeled in the winter period. In very early 2004 that is exactly what happened. Trawlers were catching so many sea bass that they were calling trap boats with any quota to steam way offshore and take fish off their hands.. Effort spiked where our region's fish winter - and we tanked that spring. Our spawning stock didn't really reacclimate until last season.. We know sea bass have site fidelity, that they'll return to the exact same reef. We know using a coastal stock plan is only a convenience. And, like any convenience, those who enjoy it do so at a price. The sea bass that lives off VA Beach will never see MD. The MD fish will never see even southern Jersey. Jersey fish will never see MA.. But if you've got quota for 50,000 pounds - you're going to find where the best fish are. Have to - jumbo sea bass are worth a lot more per pound. If that tumbles a region's spawning stock - tough - go 150 miles south next winter. Without regional quotas black sea bass will never stabilize; will never really recover - the population will just continue to oscillate by region. Pretty tough to call that good governance - or the best use of science.. It certainly is the present use of science. There's a lot that could be done to salvage the sea bass stock, stabilize it - and then take it higher than its ever been. Following the uncaring, unthinking path trod by Uncle Murfs all these years will not do. But first we need the strongest reconsideration of the original plan to double the 2010 quota - after all, the stock assessment has sea bass at 103% rebuilt - see http://www.mafmc.org/Jason/MAFMC_Stock_Status_CURRENT.pdf Throwing an industry under the bus to 'save' a more than fully rebuilt stock.. Wow. If you'd like to comment on these immediate issues see the links below. If you'd like to support the "Flexibility in Rebuilding America's Fisheries Act of 2009" that I've discussed in past fish reports contact your state's federal representatives. If you'd like to go fishing for something in the next few years, I suggest you do both. There's a lot going on that's good in fisheries. Clear these hurdles and we'll see some of it. Best Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 http://www.morningstarfishing.com/ This is the page for the Council's committee that has black sea bass. http://www.mafmc.org/committees/demersal-coastal.htm Lots of email addresses, catch more flies with sugar.. Strangely, I don't see the people here that I know do a lot of the lifting.. Jessica Coakley heads the sea bass component... This is the way to the Commission's Black Sea Bass Technical/Monitoring Committee -- go to: http://www.asmfc.org/ then click managed species - then click black sea bass - then click technical committee and scroll down the page till you see sea bass again.. Sheesh! - But there you are - a wealth of email addresses.. This is the page for the Science & Statistical Committee: http://www.mafmc.org/committees/science.htm There are no email addresses listed here - you could google the names, but you'd have to have a sound scientific or statistical argument.. Above I've tried to offer one. Corals.. Eh, another day! I promise cbass do not fall from the sky.. http://www.mafmc.org/committees/ecosystems.htm If you live in the Mid-Atlantic, your state director of fisheries should know precisely who to contact - and is very likely a great place to address comment.... M
  13. Fish Report 12/29/09 I will be announcing winter tog trips based on weather via short-notice email. Sign-up - mhawkins@siteone.net - Cheers! Fish Report 12/29/09 Tog Soon.. Very Soon A Christmas Sight Sea Bass: Thoughts Today & From 2001 Holiday Greetings From the Coast, I'd thought a New Year's tog trip would be in order this year.. hmm.. the forecast - call it like I see it - No Joy. We will be going soon, just not on the Jan 1st re-opening. When the weather's right--on any day of the week--we shall. Twelve will sell the boat out - Cabin is now heated - Crabs provided - I'll announce winter trips via email... Coming across the RT 50/Severn River bridge on Sunday; saw 2 big barge/crane set-ups.. Almost a gift, better really: both barges are part of an Army Corps oyster restoration project. For the first time in Maryland's Chesapeake oyster restoration efforts they are allowed to use 'alternative substrates' - rock/concrete. The idea was first put forward by the founder of the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, Dr. Truitt, in the early 1920s as a way to create oyster spawning sanctuaries: took a while to catch on. You'd be hard pressed to figure out all the different agencies building this reef system in the Severn. If yours is -- my many thanks. The river is closed to commercial oyster harvest. Though I'm not tight to the inside of this project, it seems as though there's a multi-agency/NGO focus to see if large scale reef building can have an effect on water quality.. Bet it works too. I see a time when "Department of Study It" turns more "Department of Go Fix It"-- Those big barges but a glimpse -- a start.. I've never wet a line in the Chesapeake. Promise this though, it needs fixin. I think oysters are 1/4 or more of the solution - get 'em high off the bottom and put 'em to work. Several centuries of oyster reef damage to repair -- in an estuary that was once able to filter itself twice a week.. Need a great big department of fix-it.. Need to fix some regulatory issues too. Diving deeply into that below. Further down still a comment I wrote in 2001: sobering in that I have not changed my tune; only refined it. There is hope that the sea bass quota will be bumped up if a case can be made that the NOAA Regional Administrator finds credible. They are meeting again for this very purpose. I try to explain it below.. Its an opportunity for bottom-up lobbying - where an email to your state's fisheries staff, particularly ASMFC & MAFMC reps, about quota & release mortality can be effective... Also saw an excellent letter on Senator Mikulski's website about the "Flexibility in Rebuilding Americas Fisheries Act." Googles easy. Top down this: Probably at a hard time in life if you need an Act of Congress for any reason. Fishers are not in want of a bail-out, not a hand-out: Just let us fish -go to work- so we and all the many businesses tied to fishing won't need Disaster Relief Aid.. in the heart of the Great Recession. The 'rebuilding' actions managers have recently taken is akin to helicoptering within feet of a mountain summit and, climbing some few feet further, thrusting a flag in its crest then claiming to have scaled it. There's the flag and the footprints, how could this accomplishment be called untrue? Closing data-poor fisheries will surely helicopter fish-stocks up... "Yeah! We did it!" Eh, might fool a few.. Rebuilding fisheries based purely on regulatory sleight-of-hand while throwing participants off the boat isn't going to look good long. A foundation of sand.. A reasonable quota increase & a realistic release mortality figure would more than fix this particular dilemma - but not the problem. These many closures, including the upcoming grouper closure, have similar characteristics. Its impossible to estimate reef-fish populations--create stock assessments--via trawl-nets that get stuck on reefs. And--managing a short/non-migratory species with spawning site fidelity as a 'single stock' over broad 'coast-wide' areas is, very clearly, a management approach that can not work. I'm afraid this really is the greatest fisheries battle I've seen. Lose and it will be my last as a participant, as a fisher. A deep description of one small action in this East Coast and Gulf fight below.. A very brief "Going Fishing" announcement coming in a couple days I hope. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 http://www.morningstarfishing.com/ Comment on Black Sea Bass 12/29/09 Safe Quota Release Mortality A Management Plan That Can Not Work Regarding the impending sea bass fiasco, there is hope we'll recapture some quota when the Science and Statistical Committee & Joint Monitoring Committees meet. Funny thing, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council--MAFMC--claims sea bass are rebuilt. Even the Blue Ocean Institute has mid-Atlantic sea bass doing fine, that they're not 'overfished'. But we have to reduce catch by 66%? Nonsense. I have it on very good authority that a much larger sea bass quota was recommended for 2010 by the joint Council/Commission monitoring committee. And that recommended quota was actually millions of pounds less than the maximum allowable quota. Now the Science and Statistical Committee's recommendation--which gets forced upon all under recent changes in the law--is millions of pounds less than even the monitoring committee's very safe quota recommendation. On paper we've gone from over 6 million pounds of sea bass quota during 2010 to 2 million. We then have to split it with the commercial fishers. I have--without question--seen sea bass populations skyrocket with over 6 million pound quotas in place.. Odd.. that was before creel limits, seasons, and with a much smaller size-limit -- Regionally, we were just fortunate. Anyway, good, hard-working scientists thought they could very safely have a 4 million pound coastwide quota on sea bass in 2010: That was then cut in two based on some arbitrary 'hunch' to be safer still -- that is why we are facing the worst fishing restrictions ever.. A two month season where there were twelve. It is clear to many that the quota could safely be loosened up, even doubled. That would give fishers a bit of breathing room. How about that 25% release mortality? Can that be an accurate scientific representation of the released fish that die? Sakes no! Release-based fishery management would have failed catastrophically some twelve years ago were the release mortality anywhere near 25%. Many of the sea bass we catch, especially in heavily targeted areas, have multiple hook-scars in their lip - sometimes even 4 or more. While those particular sea bass may not end up as Alpha spawners, if 25% of released fish actually died--and we kept catching on the remainder--pretty soon 'keeper' size limit regulations would result in an utterly collapsed fishery: Our first forays into management would have been a disaster. I was carrying 70 to 90 passengers a day when I mandated a 9 inch sea bass size limit in 1992. I had to prove to my clients that throwing fish back was going to make a difference. This was long before regulation happened.. Talk about some ugly scenes.. Making anglers throw back fish without real regulation was sometimes very tough - especially because back then everyone "knew" that any/every fish released died - - That's what we were all taught... Lots and lots of tagging later---work I mostly paid for out-of-pocket---clients were willing to throw back sea bass. Its just obvious that it works, that they'll not only live to bite again, but do so right where we put them back. Using Kahle hooks as I have since 1982, the only mortality on release is with special weather conditions or fairly unique predation - - Rare. I'd be surprised if the real release mortality figure in the mid-Atlantic ocean is even 1% over the course of a year. My observations, backed-up by scientists own observations, must now be proven some 18 years later - again. Its reminiscent of something out a Monty Python sketch.. add your own British accent. "But I saw it swim down." "Right you did, and then it blew up." "They don't blow up. We recapture them all the time." "No data - no data whatsoever. 12.5% blow up and 12.5% turn into lobsters, therefore 25% die when you foolishly don't eat them. Its written on paper. We'll calculate you killed but didn't eat more than you killed and did eat. Do you fancy your lobster steamed, broiled or boiled? Eh? Eh?" A reasonable quota increase & a realistic release mortality figure would more than fix this particular dilemma - but not the problem. {bit of pleasant research -- YouTube search: "Monty Python- the witch scene" - in this scene substitute "overfishing fisher" for witch, the Monks go by fast. Believe me, there are direct correlations to witch hunting in this fisheries dilemma... and then there's the 'annoying peasant' clip too..} Annoying? Here's the problem. Any who claim to possess a valid coastwide black sea bass stock assessment & restoration management plan without regional division/evaluation has on their desk before them a lie. Hmm.. Say Capt, that's rather coarse verbiage.. But if that statement is true, and it is--that's why they call it a data poor fishery--then from these many years of assessments have been built a paper palace of lies. Deep down, under layers & layers of bad data; so many layers that they can not see the truth of the situation -- is the Science and Statistical Committee. Emanating from this committee, and they alone, are quotas that may well doom many fishing businesses in 2010 - its the law. The foundation of their Paper Palace - The black sea bass stock estimate - The estimated population of cbass alive in the mid-Atlantic - The BSIA - The Best Scientific Information Available - is gathered via a trawl-net survey. Works well for some species, but trawl-nets get stuck on these robust reefs where sea bass now live.. Reefs that were trawlable once thrived, but after half a century of fishing impacts--think scraped clear--those areas no longer serve as reef: though in some instances the substrates remain, possibly with some growth, leaving a door open for restoration. Only the most robust natural reefs remain ecologically functioning as they originally did. A growing amount of artificial reef and a decreasing amount of accidental shipwreck are bridging the loss of natural habitat.. This remaining reef habitat--where reef fish now live--is not suitable for stock assessment by trawl --- yet is the primary source for our BSIA - Best Scientific Information Available. Hmm.. Put aside fish counting a moment: Consider the fact that the natural footprint of reef is nearly gone, destroyed; yet that has failed to pop-up in the Best Science Information Available either... But Wait! We not only use trawl-netting to count the live fish where we can not trawl: We use MRFSS, the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistics Survey, to count the fish recreational fishers caught - killed both by release and iced in a cooler.. But Wait! MRFSS is a Dead Man Walking, sent to hang-by-the-neck-until-dead by the guvmint for failing to provide good data. No use writing about its failures. Replacing it is the Marine Recreational Information Program. MRIP offers a better way of counting fish that were caught. It kicks in January 1st, 2010. Just before being led to the gallows though, MRFSS asked one final wish: To take as many recreational fishers with it as possible. That wish appears to have been granted.... As I've said, a reasonable quota increase & a realistic release mortality figure would more than fix this particular dilemma - but not the problem.. Reef dwelling species need a new form of management based on controlling effort over discreet spawning sub-stocks within their range - - and protecting and enhancing fish habitat. (which, though ignored, is in another part of the Magnusson Act, but apparently not as iron-clad as quota controls.) My Argument: A fishery comprised of local, isolated--not intermingling--spawning components can not be well regulated with coastwide controls: That not having regional or some fine-scale geographic control leaves the successful restoration of such a species only to good fortune--luck: That species such as sea bass have been shown to respond extremely well to localized controls and that if these controls were put in place over broad areas, but with fine-scale management, then their restoration would exceed any present calculation. And will when management can be coerced into trying it. These benefits to all fishers would be enhanced by protecting habitat from physical damage. The restoration of natural sea floor habitat can be accelerated by strategic artificial reefing which would further hasten recovery of fish populations. It is here that habitat engineering can be put to greatest use: Management can exceed any historical reef-fish population estimate given more habitat to work with. Not just sea bass.. I was amazed at the article I read over the holiday in the February 2009 Journal of Fishery Management - "....Spatially Complex Population Structure for Gulf of Maine Atlantic Cod" - Reich & DeAlteris. Their simulation has remarkable similarity to my sea bass thesis: That managing cod, who apparently also have specific spawning site fidelity, can not be accomplished well using broad management areas. Unfortunately for them, their study is based on fisher's observations - lots of them. They actually use the word "Anecdotal".. pure poison in scientific circles. Still, I wonder if red snapper & grouper behave somewhat similarly - maybe lots and lots of species do.. From Texas to Maine fish with similar characteristics are giving everyone trouble... Rebuilding fish can be accomplished without closing fisheries. What we experienced with sea bass populations up until 2003 was proof enough. That example of explosive population growth is readily seen in the Vessel Trip Reports -- but not MRFSS, the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistics Survey. Its no coincidence that it is partially from MRFSS that The Paper-Palace is built.. With the Marine Recreational Information Program & Vessel Trip Reports offering better insight to actual catch, management might soon be ready to step outside The Palace and have a look/listen. They need to give us some breathing room first - open that quota. More reading? Seriously? The 'comment' below is from 2001.. Even if you just read the first few sentences.. Here's to an industrial artificial reef project near you & a pan full of sea bass 12 months a year. Or a tog this winter.. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 http://www.morningstarfishing.com/ Concerning the 2002 Recreational Management Measures for Black Sea Bass 12/2001 Capt. Monty Hawkins, Ocean City, Maryland Greetings, For the next 2 years recreational management of black sea bass should be no more restrictive than a creel limit of 25 at 11 inches with no closed season. This would give scientists and managers time to develop a management plan based on "regions" as the life cycle of sea bass clearly calls for. Because these fish exhibit a strong area fidelity*, that is, they return to very specific places or areas after an unclear winter migration, they can not be managed well when considered to be a single stock from Cape Hatteras to Cape Cod. Seasonal closures are impossible to fairly execute as the southern states shoulder the burden of spring closures, while other ports lose deep water winter trips.(*Habitat Fidelity assertion based on *Able and Fahey "First Year in the Life of Estuarine Fishes in the Middle Atlantic Bight", Essential Fish Habitat Source Document "Black Sea Bass" and personal tag returns. See also David Dobbs "The Great Gulf" for codfish stock assessments / divisions and difficulties created for managers and stakeholders.) A 2 year freeze on regulations would prevent further "fishing down" of the '97 and '98 year classes** while allowing fishing to begin on the '99 year class which was one of the finest on record. If not, then the fastest growing fish will continue to be culled from the spawning stock as size limits are increased, creating a stock that has been selected for slower growth.*** This has strong potential for negative long term economic repercussions. (**Year class estimates based on Able and Fahey "First Year in the Life of Estuarine Fishes in the Middle Atlantic Bight", Essential Fish Habitat Source Document "Black Sea Bass" and personal tag returns.)(***Edley and Law, 1988; Law and Grey,1989 from Jennings, Kaiser, Reynolds "Marine Fisheries Ecology") Clearly the recovery of this fishery is ahead of the management plan. Further restrictions on the recreational industry are not needed. It could never have been the intention of any congressman or senator to bring economic harm to the participants in a biologically thriving fishery. Throughout the recreational industry there is unanimity that stocks are highly resurgent. Throughout the scientific community these stocks are recognized as improving very well with a trend of record setting biomass surveys. In the commercial industry there are no doubts that the stock is fine, but because of permitting and quota problems, long time participants are still unable to benefit from any recovery in localized stocks. The number of sea bass that were released on the party boat I captain almost doubled over the last year. In 2000 we released 99,241 sea bass and in 2001 we released 196,425. This year's (2001) catch (landings & releases) is far and away the largest number of sea bass that I've ever seen. Make no mistake, there can still be a many fold increase in the stock size, given the anecdotal evidence that I have heard from people that were fishing during the late 50s and 60s. Personal observations while fishing and video tapes made of unfished natural reef-like substrates indicate that heavily fished natural, accidental and artificial habitats hold far fewer sea bass than unfished habitats. However, since the dramatic improvement now seen is a result of smaller size limits and no possession limit; it stands to reason that the stock size will continue to expand ahead of schedule under the far more stringent management now in place. The goal of the 2002 recreational management measures is to reduce recreational landings by 17%. A worthy goal indeed considering the likelihood of lawsuit by commercial interests. Can it be reasonable to cause economic hardship within an industry based on statistics with such a large percentage of error? Problems with data plague many fisheries. Witness the recent worldwide statistics revision caused by China's falsified data. Often times the MRFSS, despite their best efforts, are very far wrong too. For instance, can it be true that Rhode Island's nearshore sea bass landings jumped from an average of less than 20 thousand pounds to well over a quarter of a million pounds in 2000? I have to assume this is an error. It would only take 1 more error of this magnitude to show that recreational fishermen were within the guidance of the present management plan. In 1992 I was very likely the first partyboat captain to place a 9 inch limit on sea bass. I did that based on the obvious need for action to restore the stock and scientific observations that spawning had occurred, even twice, by 9 inches. That was 5 years in front of the Fed., 6 before MD. I actively sought creel and size limits on sea bass at the federal level. Having been so closely involved with the paradigm shift of "over the rail, into the pail" (nothing was ever released!) to a fishery that now hovers around a 75% release ratio; I can, with absolute confidence, assert that the MRFSS release figures for Maryland partyboats in the EEZ from 1981 to 1992 are complete fantasy. The fruits of these management measures are now being enjoyed throughout the mid-Atlantic. Sea bass stocks along the coast of DelMarVa have increased nearly a thousand fold when compared the early to mid 1980s. No, MRFSS data does not bear this out. However, memories of working the deck of a partyboat in August and knowing before you left the dock that you wouldn't catch enough sea bass for your clients dinner are hard to erase. By comparison, catches, mostly releases, for August 2001 frequently numbered over 4000 fish and sometimes double even that! Although I have not found anyone that would share it with me there must be a dead discard hook mortality figure that is used in calculating the recreational impact on sea bass. What is alarming to me is the recent discovery that scientists are quoting research done in the Gulf of Mexico on sea bass that shows high mortality rates when released in depths greater than 70 feet. This same study indicates that anglers should only release sea bass caught at greater than 70 feet after puncturing the air bladder. Nothing could be further from the truth in the cooler waters and air of the mid-Atlantic (implied from personal observation of temperature/depth effects on sea bass compared to Lukacovic/ Md. D.N.R. rockfish mortality study). Our release mortality does not begin until a depth of 115 feet and then only if there is predation by gulls or bluefish as the fish reacclimate their air bladder. I thought that this issue would have been put to bed by now, but apparently not. (personal observation and over 50 tag returns from fish released in greater than 90 feet of water) Additional savings to the stock could be had by requiring directed sea bass fishers to use hook types that are demonstrated to reduce deep hooking mortality.(implied from personal observation of effects on sea bass of various hooks compared to Lukacovic/ Md. D.N.R. rockfish mortality study {great similarity}) This would be especially advantageous to anglers that seek action in heavily fished areas as I believe sea bass are very unlikely to leave an area during prime fishing season. If we absolutely must have 17%, it can be made up in release mortality and found in statistical error. Although it may never be proven to be right or wrong, I believe habitat increases, both natural and artificial, have also been important to the robust increases in our local stocks of sea bass. Anyone can pick up a newspaper and read of artificial reef improvements off their coast. It is the resurgence of our natural reef-like bottom areas that are the key to improving settlement. Any modern text on fisheries biology has at least a chapter on commercial gear impacts to less robust substrates and their associated communities. As trawl and clamming effort has decreased in this part of the mid-Atlantic so have areas of mussels, corals and the many other species that make up a healthy benthic population begun to rebuild. Sea bass larvae have been shown to settle, not just in our estuarine systems, but also on suitable areas of our nearshore continental shelf*. When the art and science of fisheries management can exploit the relationship between habitat, fidelity and stock size, many species will again flourish. Thanks for your time, Capt. Monty Hawkins P.S. Has anyone seen a red hake lately?
  14. Looking for the weather to break - get some more tog trips in. Water is c-c-c-c-cold - bite was slow Thursday. See the 1/5 report below for more tog trip info. Email to get added to the reports list. Cheers! Fish Management Report 1/8/10 Sea Bass Reopened? A Step Forward My sincerest thanks to all in the fisheries community that risked perhaps even their careers to help make this day possible. Hi All, The Science & Statistical and Joint Monitoring Committees met today via 'webinar'. After several hours of evidence from the Joint Monitoring Committee and several more hours of debate by the Science and Statistical Committee, it was decided to recommend a large black sea bass quota increase to NOAA's Regional Administrator, Pat Kurkel. It is possible that we will regain some of our sea bass season - pending action by Ms. Kurkel. The exact quota recommended is unknown at this time. Further off still are any adjustments to our season. My thanks to all who lobbied on fishers behalf, who wrote letters crying injustice, who would not let data-poor fisheries science destroy the last vestiges of saltwater recreational fishing's partyboat roots. My sincerest thanks to all in the fisheries community that risked perhaps even their careers to help make this day possible. Last year's sea bass season was stolen - first by the size limit increase, then by 'emergency shutdown' when a discredited & now discontinued catch estimating system, MRFSS, calculated northern states had caught the whole coast's quota.. Perhaps I now know what a prisoner feels like on hearing that he has been exonerated by DNA evidence - but hasn't yet heard the judge's decision. My sense is we'll still be under house arrest - that we won't get all our sea bass season back. Perhaps if we had the "Flexibility in Rebuilding America's Fisheries Act" it would have never come to this. I hope to be able to open my cbass season reservation book soon - will the moment the dust settles. One thought I can not escape: I just spent all day listening to brilliant people, people that can do fantastically complex math or understand the intricacies of decades of fisheries law and regulation: They don't think, they cogitate. In those 6+ hours of discussion about sea bass, a reef fish, the word reef was never spoken.. No mention of habitat's role.. I'm telling you, Alabama has no natural coral reef system and the shortest coastline in the Gulf, yet has a lion's share of the red snapper quota due only to catch history over artificial reef. That's not fishery restoration; its inarguably fishery manufacture. We do some of that here too. The future fishery I envision surely employs catch restriction management: But has at its core habitat; our remnant & to-be-restored natural reefs, plus an artificial reef complex that can stand on it's own.. Fishery restoration and fishery manufacture resulting in bending rods, smiling faces & a day's fishing that doesn't end until the dishes are washed. Thanks To All, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 http://www.morningstarfishing.com/ Fish/Trip Report 1/5/10 Bites Couple More Tries Hi All, Had a trip scheduled today; canceled. Mike & I snuck out from 1 to 3:30 just to see if the water was OK, not too c-c-cold. Anchored. No bites. Watched crabs sink straight down. Current picked up. Bites. Tag returns... OK, lets go try some more then. Thursday and Friday 1/7--1/8 - Tog trips - boat sells out at 6 so I can fish all in a wind break - crabs provided - cabin heated - leave at 7:30 for these trips only - return no later than 3 - 3:30 - $100.00 buys a spot - reservation a must, that phone number in signature - email does not work for reservations - call. If this weather doesn't break soon we'll be iced out. The joint monitoring/SSC committee meeting is Thursday - - here is the only chance left to get the sea bass quota upped - lot of businesses on the line... I have tried. Game on. Watching CNN this morning - Gal sez if you spend more than 20% of your time lobbying you have to register.. Oops. Cheers All, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 http://www.morningstarfishing.com/ Fish/Trip Report 1/4/10 Goin Fishin 1/5/10 Reef Fisheries Crisis: Executive Summary ..Alabama has no natural coral reefs and the shortest coastline in the Gulf: Yet Alabama has the lion's share of the red snapper quota--a major reef fishery---with no catch history whatsoever before artificial reef construction began in the 50s. Hi All, Its cold and windy.. but I gotta go fishing. NWesterly; should be plenty calm under the beach.. Water temp is still in the zone.. Tog trip - boat sells out at 6 on 1/5/09 so I can fish all in a wind break - crabs provided - cabin heated - leave at 7:30 for this trip only - return no later than 3 - 3:30 - $100.00 buys a spot - reservation a must, that phone number in signature - email does not work for reservations - call. Minimum passengers required for this trip is zero - I gotta go fishin. Below is a 'summary' I wrote for meetings with Representatives.. ..getting a fresh fish dinner more fun. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 http://www.morningstarfishing.com/ 1/4/10 Reef Fisheries Crisis: A 2010 Salem Witch Hunt.. Capt. Monty Hawkins & Capt. Victor Bunting - Ocean City, MD. Executive Summary: 1) Job Losses - Instantaneous. Affects Texas to Maine - many fisheries - sea bass/flounder worst off coastal Maryland. Bankrupts at least half the industry - could very well lead to collapse of supporting industries. 2) Fishers will then turn to every form of Federal & State Relief - including Federal Disaster Relief. 3) Collapsing businesses is wholly unneeded to restore fisheries; especially sea bass & flounder which are considered fully rebuilt. Regulations are based on data terribly flawed - Even referred to by fisheries science professionals and every sector of Govt. associated with fisheries as Data-Poor: Sea bass are the most data-poor fishery. 4) Regulations impact two near-shore fisheries most responsible for MD's coastal fishers' economic stability - sea bass & flounder. Closing them forces fishing pressure on tautog which will either collapse that species or force regulators to close that too because of overfishing. 5) The Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS) has, as of January 2010, been replaced by the Federal Government with the Marine Recreational Informational Program. (MRIP) In Sept/Oct--Wave 5--2007, MRFSS has landings for summer flounder in MD at 1,711 for Party Boats (boats that frequently fish more than 50 passengers a trip) And 36,017 for shore fishers.. Further incriminating these data sets, according to MRFSS in Sept/Oct of 2006 shore fishers caught zero flounder. These are real examples of data accepted by MRFSS. The MRFSS survey has black sea bass @ 1,355 for all of MD 2009. They "know" party boats caught them all. Private and charter boats caught none. In fact party boats likely caught that many in one May weekend; the charter & private boats caught sea bass too. These data sets are terrible. 6) Not only can NMFS not estimate well how many we caught: the MRFSS data is thought to be much better than the data-poor fish population assessments. The data-POOR stems from using trawl-nets to count fish that live where you can not pull a net. Those in fisheries know these stock assessments can never be right. Every single reef associated fish--all of them--are proving difficult to manage. 7) A major failure by regulators is to not recognize the futility of managing fish in vast areas that remain in small areas: Habitat Fidelity is the rule, not the exception in reef fisheries; its not too complex a theory.. To wit: Alabama has no natural coral reefs and the shortest coastline in the Gulf: Yet Alabama has the lion's share of the red snapper quota--a major reef fishery---with no catch history whatsoever before artificial reef construction began in the 50s. Despite the glaringly obvious truth associated with Alabama's artificial reef construction, there still has been no effort by fisheries staff to discover, protect & enhance the natural corals--Essential Fish Habitat--of the mid-Atlantic region as is called for by every update of the Magnusson Act. 8) Release mortality figures are so wrong that their use results in over half the recreational sea bass quota being killed by throwing fish back. If remotely true, release based fishery management would have failed years ago. From Maine to Texas fisheries are being closed. The recreational fishing industry is dying because of hard, unforgiving use of Science & Statistics. These reef fish, such as red snapper & black sea bass, closed or so restricted as to be economically lost despite being referred to by fisheries science professionals and every sector of government as the "Data-Poor Fisheries." Scientists are incapable of estimating reef fish populations well and know it. They still pull nets to gather population estimates. Nets get stuck on reefs. The MRFSS (Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey) is so-very well known to be a poor estimator of recreational catch that it has been replaced by a new program, MRIP. These failed data elements simultaneously combine as federally mandated fishery rebuilding timelines expire -- forcing the gravest of fishery closures yet seen in the reef fisheries.. just as these species are being declared rebuilt. The reef fisheries are where managers must trust their gut; reach for other sources of information. Yet the 2006 reauthorization of the Magnusson Act now gives the greatest of powers to the fisheries' Science and Statistical Committees: Management's weighing of other information, even considerations of economic & cultural importance, are removed via the hard "Science & Statistics" of these fisheries. That very data that is no better than evidences brought forth in 1692 against women thought to be witches. The modern day result of accusation is similar economically... Do not allow science & bureaucracy to blindly destroy legacy, custom & culture with science no more soundly formed than a witch hunter's professings.
  15. Fish Report 1/10/10 Chilly Tog - But Going Fishing A Brighter Cbass Picture Hi All, They're c-c-c-c-c-c-cold! The tog; still nicked a few - Mike had 3 good keepers Thursday. Tagged a bunch too.. Then snow, freezing weather.. Going again Monday through Saturday except Tuesday - warmer this week - west winds - - should work. Hope so. Tog trips - 1/11 thru 1/16 (but not 1/12) - boat sells out at 12 - (fat chance of that!) - crabs provided - cabin heated - leave at 7:00 for these trips - return no later than 3 - 3:30 - $100.00 buys a spot - reservation a must, that phone number in signature - email does not work for reservations - call - leave a good phone number--cell--in case of cancellation. Wonderful news with the decision to recommend expanding the sea bass quota. I don't know as I've seen that before. Be a while before the smoke settles.. if it will even get approved by the regional Administrator. Assuming it does, the sea bass season will be a whole lot more than June & September - we'll see. Maybe this conflict will have been catalyst enough to bring about a sea change in how reef fish are managed. I think they can be made--and kept--very abundant.. Below is my "Fish Management Report 1/8/10" in case you didn't see it. For some reason I lost a bunch of email--never delivered--with that last one. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 http://www.morningstarfishing.com/ Fish Management Report 1/8/10 Sea Bass Reopened? A Step Forward My sincerest thanks to all in the fisheries community that risked perhaps even their careers to help make this day possible. Hi All, The Science & Statistical and Joint Monitoring Committees met today via 'webinar'. After several hours of evidence from the Joint Monitoring Committee and several more hours of debate by the Science and Statistical Committee, it was decided to recommend a large black sea bass quota increase to NOAA's Regional Administrator, Pat Kurkel. It is possible that we will regain some of our sea bass season - pending action by Ms. Kurkel. The exact quota recommended is unknown at this time. Further off still are any adjustments to our season. My thanks to all who lobbied on fishers behalf, who wrote letters crying injustice, who would not let data-poor fisheries science destroy the last vestiges of saltwater recreational fishing's partyboat roots. My sincerest thanks to all in the fisheries community that risked perhaps even their careers to help make this day possible. Last year's sea bass season was stolen - first by the size limit increase, then by 'emergency shutdown' when a discredited & now discontinued catch estimating system, MRFSS, calculated northern states had caught the whole coast's quota.. Perhaps I now know what a prisoner feels like on hearing that he has been exonerated by DNA evidence - but hasn't yet heard the judge's decision. My sense is we'll still be under house arrest - that we won't get all our sea bass season back. Perhaps if we had the "Flexibility in Rebuilding America's Fisheries Act" it would have never come to this. I hope to be able to open my cbass season reservation book soon - will the moment the dust settles. One thought I can not escape: I just spent all day listening to brilliant people, people that can do fantastically complex math or understand the intricacies of decades of fisheries law and regulation: They don't think, they cogitate. In those 6+ hours of discussion about sea bass, a reef fish, the word reef was never spoken.. No mention of habitat's role.. I'm telling you, Alabama has no natural coral reef system and the shortest coastline in the Gulf, yet has a lion's share of the red snapper quota due only to catch history over artificial reef. That's not fishery restoration; its inarguably fishery manufacture. We do some of that here too. The future fishery I envision surely employs catch restriction management: But has at its core habitat; our remnant & to-be-restored natural reefs, plus an artificial reef complex that can stand on it's own.. Fishery restoration and fishery manufacture resulting in bending rods, smiling faces & a day's fishing that doesn't end until the dishes are washed. Thanks To All, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 http://www.morningstarfishing.com/ Fish/Trip Report 1/5/10 Bites Couple More Tries Hi All, Had a trip scheduled today; canceled. Mike & I snuck out from 1 to 3:30 just to see if the water was OK, not too c-c-cold. Anchored. No bites. Watched crabs sink straight down. Current picked up. Bites. Tag returns... OK, lets go try some more then. Thursday and Friday 1/7--1/8 - Tog trips - boat sells out at 6 so I can fish all in a wind break - crabs provided - cabin heated - leave at 7:30 for these trips only - return no later than 3 - 3:30 - $100.00 buys a spot - reservation a must, that phone number in signature - email does not work for reservations - call. If this weather doesn't break soon we'll be iced out. The joint monitoring/SSC committee meeting is Thursday - - here is the only chance left to get the sea bass quota upped - lot of businesses on the line... I have tried. Game on. Watching CNN this morning - Gal sez if you spend more than 20% of your time lobbying you have to register.. Oops. Cheers All, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 http://www.morningstarfishing.com/ Fish/Trip Report 1/4/10 Goin Fishin 1/5/10 Reef Fisheries Crisis: Executive Summary ..Alabama has no natural coral reefs and the shortest coastline in the Gulf: Yet Alabama has the lion's share of the red snapper quota--a major reef fishery---with no catch history whatsoever before artificial reef construction began in the 50s. Hi All, Its cold and windy.. but I gotta go fishing. NWesterly; should be plenty calm under the beach.. Water temp is still in the zone.. Tog trip - boat sells out at 6 on 1/5/09 so I can fish all in a wind break - crabs provided - cabin heated - leave at 7:30 for this trip only - return no later than 3 - 3:30 - $100.00 buys a spot - reservation a must, that phone number in signature - email does not work for reservations - call. Minimum passengers required for this trip is zero - I gotta go fishin. Below is a 'summary' I wrote for meetings with Representatives.. ..getting a fresh fish dinner more fun. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 http://www.morningstarfishing.com/ 1/4/10 Reef Fisheries Crisis: A 2010 Salem Witch Hunt.. Capt. Monty Hawkins & Capt. Victor Bunting - Ocean City, MD. Executive Summary: 1) Job Losses - Instantaneous. Affects Texas to Maine - many fisheries - sea bass/flounder worst off coastal Maryland. Bankrupts at least half the industry - could very well lead to collapse of supporting industries. 2) Fishers will then turn to every form of Federal & State Relief - including Federal Disaster Relief. 3) Collapsing businesses is wholly unneeded to restore fisheries; especially sea bass & flounder which are considered fully rebuilt. Regulations are based on data terribly flawed - Even referred to by fisheries science professionals and every sector of Govt. associated with fisheries as Data-Poor: Sea bass are the most data-poor fishery. 4) Regulations impact two near-shore fisheries most responsible for MD's coastal fishers' economic stability - sea bass & flounder. Closing them forces fishing pressure on tautog which will either collapse that species or force regulators to close that too because of overfishing. 5) The Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS) has, as of January 2010, been replaced by the Federal Government with the Marine Recreational Informational Program. (MRIP) In Sept/Oct--Wave 5--2007, MRFSS has landings for summer flounder in MD at 1,711 for Party Boats (boats that frequently fish more than 50 passengers a trip) And 36,017 for shore fishers.. Further incriminating these data sets, according to MRFSS in Sept/Oct of 2006 shore fishers caught zero flounder. These are real examples of data accepted by MRFSS. The MRFSS survey has black sea bass @ 1,355 for all of MD 2009. They "know" party boats caught them all. Private and charter boats caught none. In fact party boats likely caught that many in one May weekend; the charter & private boats caught sea bass too. These data sets are terrible. 6) Not only can NMFS not estimate well how many we caught: the MRFSS data is thought to be much better than the data-poor fish population assessments. The data-POOR stems from using trawl-nets to count fish that live where you can not pull a net. Those in fisheries know these stock assessments can never be right. Every single reef associated fish--all of them--are proving difficult to manage. 7) A major failure by regulators is to not recognize the futility of managing fish in vast areas that remain in small areas: Habitat Fidelity is the rule, not the exception in reef fisheries; its not too complex a theory.. To wit: Alabama has no natural coral reefs and the shortest coastline in the Gulf: Yet Alabama has the lion's share of the red snapper quota--a major reef fishery---with no catch history whatsoever before artificial reef construction began in the 50s. Despite the glaringly obvious truth associated with Alabama's artificial reef construction, there still has been no effort by fisheries staff to discover, protect & enhance the natural corals--Essential Fish Habitat--of the mid-Atlantic region as is called for by every update of the Magnusson Act. 8) Release mortality figures are so wrong that their use results in over half the recreational sea bass quota being killed by throwing fish back. If remotely true, release based fishery management would have failed years ago. From Maine to Texas fisheries are being closed. The recreational fishing industry is dying because of hard, unforgiving use of Science & Statistics. These reef fish, such as red snapper & black sea bass, closed or so restricted as to be economically lost despite being referred to by fisheries science professionals and every sector of government as the "Data-Poor Fisheries." Scientists are incapable of estimating reef fish populations well and know it. They still pull nets to gather population estimates. Nets get stuck on reefs. The MRFSS (Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey) is so-very well known to be a poor estimator of recreational catch that it has been replaced by a new program, MRIP. These failed data elements simultaneously combine as federally mandated fishery rebuilding timelines expire -- forcing the gravest of fishery closures yet seen in the reef fisheries.. just as these species are being declared rebuilt. The reef fisheries are where managers must trust their gut; reach for other sources of information. Yet the 2006 reauthorization of the Magnusson Act now gives the greatest of powers to the fisheries' Science and Statistical Committees: Management's weighing of other information, even considerations of economic & cultural importance, are removed via the hard "Science & Statistics" of these fisheries. That very data that is no better than evidences brought forth in 1692 against women thought to be witches. The modern day result of accusation is similar economically... Do not allow science & bureaucracy to blindly destroy legacy, custom & culture with science no more soundly formed than a witch hunter's professings.
  16. Fish Report 1/30/10 A Dandy A Wander Among The Explorers Stop Thief! Fishing Schedule: Toggin Again - Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday - Light Winds Forecasted - Tog Trips - February 2cnd, 3rd & 4th, 2010 - boat sells out at 12 - green crabs provided - cabin heated - leave at 7:00 for these trips (or a tad earlier) - Return no later than 3 - 3:30 (usually) - $100.00 buys a spot - Reservation a must, that phone number in signature - Email does not work for reservations - call - leave a good phone number, cell, in case of cancellation. The Protest United We Fish: A Rally for the "Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act." Local Readers: The Ocean City Fishing Center and Sunset Marina have donated a bus to go to the Fisherman's Rally Wednesday, February 24th - some seats left - $20.00 deposit - part of which may get used if more buses are required - Contact OCFC at 410 213 1121. Hi All, Entered two more days in the logbook. Wednesday was a great day on the water--for January. Nicked away at 'em but never saw anything pushing even 8 pounds.. an OK day though. Weather forecast for Thursday had a front passing through late. Marine forecasts are significantly, tremendously, better than what we had decades ago. That's a great thing when scheduling short notice trips: perhaps though another hidden guvmint subsidy for the fisheries. All along they were calling for westerly gusts to 40 in the late afternoon just north of our region.. Weather Service then changed 'late' to '1 PM' causing a twisting, lifting of an eyebrow.. 1 PM, 11:00 AM - what's the difference. Eh, snuck in a good bit of the day. Ran for home with no limits that I know of but a couple good fish; Greg's dandy nudging, but not quite 16 pounds; dinners, plenty of tags, and 1/2 off another trip for the clients. We'll try again soon......... Meanwhile, snow's piling up. Take a few minutes to read through this unique perspective of our marine fisheries management. Allow me to wander through a bit of history and use that to illuminate our errors of today.. I hold fisheries restoration as a young science. It wasn't long ago that 'working in marine fisheries' meant looking for ways to extract more wealth, more catch, from the sea. As such, that this is its beginning and nowhere near the middle, that the science involved is not well-seasoned; we can then compare marine restoration of today to the early discoverers. Alvero Mendana (Men don Ya) discovered the Solomon Islands in 1568. He certainly took as careful note of its location as was possible. However, due to the great difficulties of finding longitude then, Philip Carteret was the next explorer to see those Islands in 1767. ..199 years later. Neither explorer nor discoverer, Anson's circumnavigation was solely for killing & capturing--disrupting the Spanish fleet in anyway. Departing England in 1740 with 1,854 men he made good on his task, returning victoriously with treasure--and 188 men; scurvy having caused a great many deaths. You might have thought political spin was a modern invention.. Anson killed 1,200 some people, left a bunch more behind, and was treated as a hero. Incredibly too, we know that scurvy was recognized, even prevented, as early as 1614 by the British through ascorbic acid; the dissemination of information just wasn't there. It would be a few years after Anson's voyage that Lind conducted one of the very first clinical trials isolating vitamin C as a cure for scurvy. It would be many years more before that work was widely adopted. A chain of islands, treatment of a horrid malady: both 2 centuries in cementing upon the world's knowledge. Copernicus anyone? Information in our era travels faster and faster, is more easily tested for accuracy.. Then tales of new-found lands, the northwest passage, sea-airs causing a man's gums to rot, even sea-monsters had to be considered no matter how factual or fabricated they were: nearly anything was thought possible. ..speaking of the fabled NW passage, Amundsen first transited it from 1903 to 1906 through arduous exploration: As of 2009 it is now open to navigation for a portion of the year. Much of that cold melt-water flows to the Labrador current.. ..eh, I'll leave that segue alone. Just remember, Mendana's island discovery was shelved for 2 centuries while new scientific tools were developed to find more precise location: That scurvy's cure was nailed down centuries before treatment was widely accepted... In the late 1990s I was trying to figure out how our black sea bass population had grown so huge in such a short period; why areas that I had fished for long years were getting larger, that the actual fishable reef footprint was increasing--Why I had gone from anchoring with exacting precision over a couple rocks to, in that specific locale, drifting long distances while catching a fish I have yet to catch over sand. What was going on? We had our nine inch size limit, that was obviously working. Hook scars & tag returns were conclusive, but live releases didn't explain anywhere near these far-far greater numbers of fish. Nor the expansion of reef-like habitat.. Inconceivably, according to Kurlansky as early as the year 1376 complaints were made to Parliament about habitat loss from towed fishing gear.. Another author even claims two fishers were executed in 1583 for using chains on their beamtrawls -- too destructive of the seabed. ..The several century information lag stretches to six when the subject of the science is covered with water? Or, is that unfair since fisheries restoration is so new.. Is it new after all? I think that our region's expansion of sea bass--where in the 1980's we had months when we knew we may only catch 7 or 8 fish a day, to, in those same months, having trips with 7,000 & 8,000 fish caught, but mostly released, by the late 1990s. I think this population explosion was primarily fueled not by our self-imposed catch restrictions, but by seafloor habitat expansion due to meager summer flounder quota regulations that kept trawl effort inshore allowing cobble-sized rocky bottoms further out to recolonize with reef growth. I promise this, there was a lot of newly grown reef in less than 120 feet of water by 1999. That good fortune lost, much of it is was again impacted. Yet other areas are presently regrowing. It seems to take the better part of a decade of no stern-towed gear impacts for growths to have colonized where the ecological function of reef is fully restored. I couldn't begin to grasp that until I lowered an underwater camera.. Some videos on my website.. There's a large and growing body of marine science focused on just this issue. True Statement - Currently our science has no hard-bottom reef habitat in the nearshore waters of the Mid-Atlantic. Virtually every recreational & commercial fisher will vigilantly man their respective ramparts at the least whisper of 'protecting' areas of the ocean - those wicked Marine Protected Areas - MPAs. As Anson was held aloft as a hero yet allowed his surgeons to kill so many crew by their ignorance of vitamin C -- So too do we glorify succesful fishery rebuilding by the harshest of catch regulation stemming from poor understanding. Those who would most benefit from utilizing vitamin C's preventive effects and now habitat protections fight for their right to remain reef-free, No Lemons! No MPAs! We'll never prevent a gear impact via habitat protection through gear protected areas, we'll forever allow the Russian roulette of reef loss and re-growth dictated by the whim of fishing effort in a destructive class: Dogma carved in stone, we shall allow no MPA to pass--except striped bass in the EEZ of course.. Our data-poor science hidden by water, it would never withstand shoreside scrutiny: the parade and applause of rebuilding's victory hides the tragedy of conquest's cost, its celebrants remain ignorant of what heights could be achieved, its users fated to cycle with ill-found regulation. One of the greatest discoverers, a man who actually did what he was credited with; Cook's famous voyages were, I believe, the first circumnavigations to be completed without serious incidence of scurvy. This the late 1760s, he didn't quite have the reasons down-pat but his efforts of innovation returned rewards that many would try to duplicate. One can assume his charges were glad to have lived. Anson's voyages seeking conquest and submission, despite the celebration of his trophies on return, resulted in death. Fishing businesses are going to fold - are folding - despite some fish stocks being considered rebuilt, despite that 'dwindling' is the very poorest choice of adjective for these fish populations. It is now, in 2010, that history will have to decide if fishery managers were, like Cook, innovators utilizing flexibility when tasked with discovering solutions; or as Anson who adhered rigidly to the letter of ill-cast orders, causing subordinates' deaths in pursuit of the King's wants.. Both were well regarded in their time: History has not been as kind. The great untruth of our present day restoration effort remains as Mendana's islands, discovered but still below our collective knowledge threshold. Lindholm, Auster & Kaufman's "Habitat-mediated survivorship of juvenile cod" should have been enough to pound it into management's thought process. Fish production--the success of their spawn, that young fish are growing-in to replace what has been taken--can not be separated from habitat. In the United States, in the 21st century, fishery management has yet to put that simple notion into use in the Mid-Atlantic. No, we only use catch restriction. I hold that Alabama's red snapper fishery--their huge percentage of quota--is solely the product of fishery-manufacture through artificial reef: That, given habitat fidelity, there can not be 'restoration' where previously no fishery existed: That their economic power-house, red snapper, must be thought of as created and not re-created. The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council claims black sea bass are 103% restored, that the fish have exceeded rebuilding measures: Yet the Council has never recognized the existence of natural reef, let alone taken action to protect, enhance and conserve these habitats as is called for in federal statute. I hold that artificial reef is, in very great part, responsible for the Council's claim of this fishery's restoration here; that without key habitat for spawning success, restoration would remain greatly delayed: That based on my knowledge of this region's sea bass fishery: Were all artificial reef removed, taken away, the fishery would instantly collapse solely from our current catch effort; that the shipwrecks and remnants of natural reef alone could never support even a fraction of our current landings. I also hold that if all the players in fishery restoration ever seize upon this idea we'll exceed our present concept of what the cbass population could be; that habitat theory transfers directly to many fisheries: Indeed, must benefit nearly all. On public property, the fruits of our artificial reef building must be shared with those that never help lift, that only lean; that never donate nor work, that only extract. Now these fruits are being taken, denied to us, by those who need claim them for their paperwork too, who need meet a restoration target but fail to understand the underlying mechanics of habitat for their success. I have cried "Stop Thief!" for some 6 months now trying to recover the fishery which I have worked so hard to restore. In coming weeks we may see the quota doubled; this, thankfully, some extension of our meager two month sea bass season. But we will not get all of our sea bass season back.. The fishery is now restored from scratch to beyond expectations and was never closed but a week or two -- all while never-ever considering that reef-fish might need reef as squirrels need trees. Its a disgrace that fishing businesses must now face, even with a doubled quota, a great loss of season. Despite any plea of ignorance, there is no worse theft than that granted through authority of the Federal Government. Stop Thief! There will be many reasons why fishers and their friends will go to the Capitol steps on February 24th. I am going because we must restore flexibility to the Magnuson Act: We must allow science to discover a better method of restoration before all the teeth have fallen from the rotting, scurvied gums of America's fisheries. Its not about habitat. Its not about recreational/commercial conflict. Its not about MPAs. Its about restoring stability to regulation. Its about calming the waters so that innovation can find its way back into the process: We must have the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act. Having read this far, you likely have some interest in the outcome of this fight. Write a letter, another letter, to your favorite DC representative. CC your State fisheries staff. I promise this: The all-time king of astroturf -not real grass roots- environmental organizations, Pew, will be steadfast in their opposition. That will cause other--even fully habitat oriented--organizations to meekly toe the line no matter the truth, no matter our ignorance, no matter that the solution to fisheries' scurvy lies well in hand but unused. I say "Screw you Pew." So long as I have rocks on which to write the truth I shall load my sling ..and press send. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 http://www.morningstarfishing.com/
  17. Fish Report 2/3/10 Delaware Frank's Jumbo Regional Management Letters Lost Toggin Again Friday - 5 to 10 knot winds forecasted - February 5th, 2010 - Boat sells out at 12 - Green crabs provided - Cabin heated - Leave at 7:00 for this trip (or a tad earlier) - Return no later than 3 - 3:30 (usually) - $100.00 buys a spot - Reservation a must, that phone number in signature - Email does not work for reservations - call - leave a good phone number, cell, in case of cancellation. The Protest United We Fish: A Rally for the "Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act." The Ocean City Fishing Center and Sunset Marina have donated a bus to go to the Fisherman's Rally Wednesday, February 24th - a few seats left on the first one - $20.00 deposit - part of which may get used if more buses are required - Contact OCFC at 410 213 1121. Hi All, Moved this Thursday's trip to Friday; now calling for a classic calm-before-the-storm. That's exactly what we had on Tuesday.. Saturday's forecast has gusts to 40 in it. Expect we'll let that pipe-down a while. We count, encourage even, released tog in the fish-pool: Longest length, in or out of the boat, wins the money. Dennis's monster 26 inch tagged release wasn't going to cut it Tuesday.. Alex's 15 1/2 pounder didn't even come out of the box.. Delaware Frank's 19 pound 10 ounce tog--just a pound away from Sam's state record--took top honors. New fellow, Ben, asks "Is this a really good day?" "Yeah Ben, this is in the top 5." "Wow! For the past year?" "No, Ben, top 5 ever.." That was some serious fishing. Tagged more than we kept.. very few were sub-legal. No one thinks you can sustain that kind of fishing without dedicated conservation efforts. No modern fisher wants a return to what was; the declining stocks, the whole watershed collapses of businesses as they fished themselves into economic purgatory: We've had-done with that. May soon embrace the simple arithmatic theory of habitat too: More Reef = More Fish. It don't take no letters behind your name to figure. Take reef away = less fish. Reef regrown + artificial created = more fish. No fishery management = no fish. Good fishery management = best fishing. I am deeply troubled that this regulatory environment--too much fishery management--will prove to have the precise effect of an old-time fishery collapse.. A regulatory collapse, Plenty of Fish = No Fishing? Worse, its a theft of my life's work; a seizure only different from an African coup in that I may keep my appendages--that the banks only figuratively take an arm and a leg; Only different from Poland in 1939 in that, though my property is lost, my family will not be shot; Only different from an armed hold-up in that lawman and bandit are one and same. Hard-won quota doubled; there are still 3 1/2 solid months of no cbass fishing when it would have traditionally been our mainstay; 5 more months too for boats that fish weekends in the canyons all winter -- all because of Marine Recreational Fishing Statistics Survey--MRFSS--data. Battle only partially won, as this little bit of quota gets divided into seasons there will be a squaring off of the states as each positions for their users' best interests.. Regional management is needed biologically to make the system work, now it might be best in regulatory terms too. Real, solid progress in restoration; a removal of the stock oscillations; a completing of what has been done these last 35 years - regional sub-quotas can get us there. Tag studies prove the great danger in not having regional sub-stock management is in losing independent spawning populations: that goes for many species under management. Salmon, sturgeon.. I offer too the otolith studies of sea trout; what of seals and whales--the humpback, gray, sperm; bottlenose dolphin and, far off-scale, the hummingbird that feeds in a coastal Maryland feeder, winters in Argentina, and returns to that same feeder; our sea bass, scup, flounder, tautog: Habitat fidelity and its relevance to spawning success, feeding success--survival in every form--runs throughout the animal world. Its application is inseparable from quality fisheries management. This six month battle stems from the final data sets of a now-dead, but still haunting, catch estimation program. Unprevented; the collapse of the recreational sea bass industry will source directly from data generated by MRFSS's last flights of schizophrenic hallucination, its final delusions; a nearly lifeless program's paranoid accusations of over-fishing by wicked recreational fishers taking out an industry as old as fish hooks. Really. These recreational overages--big numbers--do not come from partyboats fishing sea bass: Its the private boaters that the program claims waylaid the fishery. Wicked slayers of untold tractor-trailer loads of fish; far more than they could eat, no doubt these evil overfishers donated their excess to Al Qaeda training camps to help bring down all imperialist states. Scoundrels! No wonder we're closed! Looked at closely this is what MRFSS asserts.. Grady Whites and custom yachts beat-up the sea bass. And that's our Best Science.. We "Have to use it." By law.. At least Jessie James used a gun. Senseless economic losses for a fishery that is 103% rebuilt: And that accomplished--from zero to 103%--with just a small week or two closure, some years a month. I promise the taxes sea bass fishers won't pay on trips they didn't take would have funded a lot of better data. ..perhaps even discovered if there's some kind of special habitat the fish favor over mud & sand. Mercy. I'm going to DC on February 24th, my sign to read: United We Fish - Sea Bass - OC MD. ---other side-- United We Fish - Fix Magnuson - OC MD.. No coral, no habitat, no commercial fisher bad guys, no Republican this and Democrat that -- We need this fixed - Evenly supported now by both parties; we need more help! One goal - One message. Fix Magnuson - Restore Flexibility. Will that fit on a sign? Hmm.... I hear that Senator Mikulski has only received 5 letters supporting the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act... Can that possibly be? I don't think it can.. Perhaps there is a problem with her mail delivery.. Fishing typically flies well below radar - it should. Not now though. Send a short note--another--a post it note, anything, supporting SB 1255 to Teri Curtis, Environment Staff, who has been doing a wonderful job representing our pleadings to Senator Mikulski: Senator Barbara Mikulski C/O Teri Curtis RSG 503 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, D.C. 20510 An email/comment on the Senator's website might be as effective.. I doubt it, but put Teri Curtis RSG in the title if you do. Fishing can be made far better than it ever was. First we have to survive.. I appreciate your efforts. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 http://www.morningstarfishing.com/ Fish Report 1/30/10 A Dandy A Wander Among The Explorers Stop Thief! Fishing Schedule: Toggin Again - Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday - Light Winds Forecasted - Tog Trips - February 2cnd, 3rd & 4th, 2010 - boat sells out at 12 - green crabs provided - cabin heated - leave at 7:00 for these trips (or a tad earlier) - Return no later than 3 - 3:30 (usually) - $100.00 buys a spot - Reservation a must, that phone number in signature - Email does not work for reservations - call - leave a good phone number, cell, in case of cancellation. The Protest United We Fish: A Rally for the "Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act." Local Readers: The Ocean City Fishing Center and Sunset Marina have donated a bus to go to the Fisherman's Rally Wednesday, February 24th - some seats left - $20.00 deposit - part of which may get used if more buses are required - Contact OCFC at 410 213 1121. Hi All, Entered two more days in the logbook. Wednesday was a great day on the water--for January. Nicked away at 'em but never saw anything pushing even 8 pounds.. an OK day though. Weather forecast for Thursday had a front passing through late. Marine forecasts are significantly, tremendously, better than what we had decades ago. That's a great thing when scheduling short notice trips: perhaps though another hidden guvmint subsidy for the fisheries. All along they were calling for westerly gusts to 40 in the late afternoon just north of our region.. Weather Service then changed 'late' to '1 PM' causing a twisting, lifting of an eyebrow.. 1 PM, 11:00 AM - what's the difference. Eh, snuck in a good bit of the day. Ran for home with no limits that I know of but a couple good fish; Greg's dandy nudging, but not quite 16 pounds; dinners, plenty of tags, and 1/2 off another trip for the clients. We'll try again soon......... Meanwhile, snow's piling up. Take a few minutes to read through this unique perspective of our marine fisheries management. Allow me to wander through a bit of history and use that to illuminate our errors of today.. I hold fisheries restoration as a young science. It wasn't long ago that 'working in marine fisheries' meant looking for ways to extract more wealth, more catch, from the sea. As such, that this is its beginning and nowhere near the middle, that the science involved is not well-seasoned; we can then compare marine restoration of today to the early discoverers. Alvero Mendana (Men don Ya) discovered the Solomon Islands in 1568. He certainly took as careful note of its location as was possible. However, due to the great difficulties of finding longitude then, Philip Carteret was the next explorer to see those Islands in 1767. ..199 years later. Neither explorer nor discoverer, Anson's circumnavigation was solely for killing & capturing--disrupting the Spanish fleet in anyway. Departing England in 1740 with 1,854 men he made good on his task, returning victoriously with treasure--and 188 men; scurvy having caused a great many deaths. You might have thought political spin was a modern invention.. Anson killed 1,200 some people, left a bunch more behind, and was treated as a hero. Incredibly too, we know that scurvy was recognized, even prevented, as early as 1614 by the British through ascorbic acid; the dissemination of information just wasn't there. It would be a few years after Anson's voyage that Lind conducted one of the very first clinical trials isolating vitamin C as a cure for scurvy. It would be many years more before that work was widely adopted. A chain of islands, treatment of a horrid malady: both 2 centuries in cementing upon the world's knowledge. Copernicus anyone? Information in our era travels faster and faster, is more easily tested for accuracy.. Then tales of new-found lands, the northwest passage, sea-airs causing a man's gums to rot, even sea-monsters had to be considered no matter how factual or fabricated they were: nearly anything was thought possible. ..speaking of the fabled NW passage, Amundsen first transited it from 1903 to 1906 through arduous exploration: As of 2009 it is now open to navigation for a portion of the year. Much of that cold melt-water flows to the Labrador current.. ..eh, I'll leave that segue alone. Just remember, Mendana's island discovery was shelved for 2 centuries while new scientific tools were developed to find more precise location: That scurvy's cure was nailed down centuries before treatment was widely accepted... In the late 1990s I was trying to figure out how our black sea bass population had grown so huge in such a short period; why areas that I had fished for long years were getting larger, that the actual fishable reef footprint was increasing--Why I had gone from anchoring with exacting precision over a couple rocks to, in that specific locale, drifting long distances while catching a fish I have yet to catch over sand. What was going on? We had our nine inch size limit, that was obviously working. Hook scars & tag returns were conclusive, but live releases didn't explain anywhere near these far-far greater numbers of fish. Nor the expansion of reef-like habitat.. Inconceivably, according to Kurlansky as early as the year 1376 complaints were made to Parliament about habitat loss from towed fishing gear.. Another author even claims two fishers were executed in 1583 for using chains on their beamtrawls -- too destructive of the seabed. ..The several century information lag stretches to six when the subject of the science is covered with water? Or, is that unfair since fisheries restoration is so new.. Is it new after all? I think that our region's expansion of sea bass--where in the 1980's we had months when we knew we may only catch 7 or 8 fish a day, to, in those same months, having trips with 7,000 & 8,000 fish caught, but mostly released, by the late 1990s. I think this population explosion was primarily fueled not by our self-imposed catch restrictions, but by seafloor habitat expansion due to meager summer flounder quota regulations that kept trawl effort inshore allowing cobble-sized rocky bottoms further out to recolonize with reef growth. I promise this, there was a lot of newly grown reef in less than 120 feet of water by 1999. That good fortune lost, much of it is was again impacted. Yet other areas are presently regrowing. It seems to take the better part of a decade of no stern-towed gear impacts for growths to have colonized where the ecological function of reef is fully restored. I couldn't begin to grasp that until I lowered an underwater camera.. Some videos on my website.. There's a large and growing body of marine science focused on just this issue. True Statement - Currently our science has no hard-bottom reef habitat in the nearshore waters of the Mid-Atlantic. Virtually every recreational & commercial fisher will vigilantly man their respective ramparts at the least whisper of 'protecting' areas of the ocean - those wicked Marine Protected Areas - MPAs. As Anson was held aloft as a hero yet allowed his surgeons to kill so many crew by their ignorance of vitamin C -- So too do we glorify succesful fishery rebuilding by the harshest of catch regulation stemming from poor understanding. Those who would most benefit from utilizing vitamin C's preventive effects and now habitat protections fight for their right to remain reef-free, No Lemons! No MPAs! We'll never prevent a gear impact via habitat protection through gear protected areas, we'll forever allow the Russian roulette of reef loss and re-growth dictated by the whim of fishing effort in a destructive class: Dogma carved in stone, we shall allow no MPA to pass--except striped bass in the EEZ of course.. Our data-poor science hidden by water, it would never withstand shoreside scrutiny: the parade and applause of rebuilding's victory hides the tragedy of conquest's cost, its celebrants remain ignorant of what heights could be achieved, its users fated to cycle with ill-found regulation. One of the greatest discoverers, a man who actually did what he was credited with; Cook's famous voyages were, I believe, the first circumnavigations to be completed without serious incidence of scurvy. This the late 1760s, he didn't quite have the reasons down-pat but his efforts of innovation returned rewards that many would try to duplicate. One can assume his charges were glad to have lived. Anson's voyages seeking conquest and submission, despite the celebration of his trophies on return, resulted in death. Fishing businesses are going to fold - are folding - despite some fish stocks being considered rebuilt, despite that 'dwindling' is the very poorest choice of adjective for these fish populations. It is now, in 2010, that history will have to decide if fishery managers were, like Cook, innovators utilizing flexibility when tasked with discovering solutions; or as Anson who adhered rigidly to the letter of ill-cast orders, causing subordinates' deaths in pursuit of the King's wants.. Both were well regarded in their time: History has not been as kind. The great untruth of our present day restoration effort remains as Mendana's islands, discovered but still below our collective knowledge threshold. Lindholm, Auster & Kaufman's "Habitat-mediated survivorship of juvenile cod" should have been enough to pound it into management's thought process. Fish production--the success of their spawn, that young fish are growing-in to replace what has been taken--can not be separated from habitat. In the United States, in the 21st century, fishery management has yet to put that simple notion into use in the Mid-Atlantic. No, we only use catch restriction. I hold that Alabama's red snapper fishery--their huge percentage of quota--is solely the product of fishery-manufacture through artificial reef: That, given habitat fidelity, there can not be 'restoration' where previously no fishery existed: That their economic power-house, red snapper, must be thought of as created and not re-created. The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council claims black sea bass are 103% restored, that the fish have exceeded rebuilding measures: Yet the Council has never recognized the existence of natural reef, let alone taken action to protect, enhance and conserve these habitats as is called for in federal statute. I hold that artificial reef is, in very great part, responsible for the Council's claim of this fishery's restoration here; that without key habitat for spawning success, restoration would remain greatly delayed: That based on my knowledge of this region's sea bass fishery: Were all artificial reef removed, taken away, the fishery would instantly collapse solely from our current catch effort; that the shipwrecks and remnants of natural reef alone could never support even a fraction of our current landings. I also hold that if all the players in fishery restoration ever seize upon this idea we'll exceed our present concept of what the cbass population could be; that habitat theory transfers directly to many fisheries: Indeed, must benefit nearly all. On public property, the fruits of our artificial reef building must be shared with those that never help lift, that only lean; that never donate nor work, that only extract. Now these fruits are being taken, denied to us, by those who need claim them for their paperwork too, who need meet a restoration target but fail to understand the underlying mechanics of habitat for their success. I have cried "Stop Thief!" for some 6 months now trying to recover the fishery which I have worked so hard to restore. In coming weeks we may see the quota doubled; this, thankfully, some extension of our meager two month sea bass season. But we will not get all of our sea bass season back.. The fishery is now restored from scratch to beyond expectations and was never closed but a week or two -- all while never-ever considering that reef-fish might need reef as squirrels need trees. Its a disgrace that fishing businesses must now face, even with a doubled quota, a great loss of season. Despite any plea of ignorance, there is no worse theft than that granted through authority of the Federal Government. Stop Thief! There will be many reasons why fishers and their friends will go to the Capitol steps on February 24th. I am going because we must restore flexibility to the Magnuson Act: We must allow science to discover a better method of restoration before all the teeth have fallen from the rotting, scurvied gums of America's fisheries. Its not about habitat. Its not about recreational/commercial conflict. Its not about MPAs. Its about restoring stability to regulation. Its about calming the waters so that innovation can find its way back into the process: We must have the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act. Having read this far, you likely have some interest in the outcome of this fight. Write a letter, another letter, to your favorite DC representative. CC your State fisheries staff. I promise this: The all-time king of astroturf -not real grass roots- environmental organizations, Pew, will be steadfast in their opposition. That will cause other--even fully habitat oriented--organizations to meekly toe the line no matter the truth, no matter our ignorance, no matter that the solution to fisheries' scurvy lies well in hand but unused. I say "Screw you Pew." So long as I have rocks on which to write the truth I shall load my sling ..and press send. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 http://www.morningstarfishing.com/
  18. Fish Report 2/19/10 Blood-Letting Shell-Shocked Sue Foster Nails It Back to the Front! A few openings for the Monday, Feb 22 tog trip left. See the very bottom of this email if interested. Hi All, I did open the book for a tiny sliver of summer--May 22 to June 30th. In a typical year I'd have opened the reservation book on January 1st to sea bass bookings from May 1st through Thanksgiving. Usually, since May offers the best grade of cbass, it books first. Can't do that this year. Had to refund a lot of reservations last fall too when an 'emergency' closure of the sea bass fishery was enacted. Cash-flow is the blood of business, it is as oxygen; No business can do without, at least not for long. You can see the effects of blood/oxygen/cash deprivation on any drive through a business district of today. For two thousand years those who were physicians fancied blood-letting as a wonder cure.. Physicians of today still do--in highly specialized circumstance, and then only in the form of transfusion. Our fishery managers need to closely examine their procedures here.. We're bleeding out. Press releases tout the newly doubled sea bass quota - where the Science and Statistical Committee (SSC) reconvened with the Monitoring Committee & new information was brought to the fore regarding the first sea bass quota.. With all information available now input, the quota was doubled; yet still retains a comfortable safety margin that protects spawning stock*. {*Um, well.. I think that needs work too - been saying so for over a decade; doesn't need to be belabored here.} NEWS: Quota Doubled! Hurray! That ought to do it! Fooled: our Senator's Staff write; our State Fisheries Staff write; NOAA & NMFS write; Many others, friends from the environmental side, customers even.. Sue Foster, our regionally famous OC tackle dealer, said it like this: "It's amazing. They take away 90 percent, give back 35 per cent, and we're supposed to be grateful?" Yes, the quota was doubled: But recreational fishers still have a 44% reduction due--owed against this year's catch--because of the now-discredited & dead program, MRFSS*, which still has us having overfished last year. (*Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Program.) That doubled quota no easy task.. Managers & Regulators--many fishers too--have the thousand yard stare. They are--We are--Shell shocked. Straight from Wikipedia: "Combat Stress Reaction, Shell Shock.. Battle Fatigue; The most common symptoms are fatigue, slower reaction times, indecision, disconnection from one's surroundings, and inability to prioritize." Battle fatigued.. What the SSC did, double a quota, was astonishing to those long-in the game. I promise: There was a lot of heavy-lifting that went on behind the scenes to have this body reconvened. It was not a small task; Rather, it was one of the greatest I have seen in fisheries. Another battle remains; And there isn't anything more fruitless on this planet than a MRFSS battle.. When troops peer over the trench-top between artillery rounds and see MRFSS with their tanks, mustard & chlorine gas, water cooled machine guns and spotter aircraft; thoughts of victory drift far away.. Shell shock. A lot, perhaps all, of the people that helped fishers first get across enemy lines, fix the SSC quota error, have this thousand yard stare. They are well and truly battle fatigued, they want fishers to go away; They have done enough and need to get back to their work. I wish we could simply say, "Thank you for all your hard work. Much appreciated." and leave it at that. My Kingdom to utter such.. Unfortunately, this next battle is our greatest. Actions against MRFSS have always been the 'storm fishers could not weather..' We need our front line troops back. We need truth brought to the attention of the uppermost spheres of our nation's government. Clearing away all the back screw-ups in MRFSS's catch estimates would be an insanely difficult job. I think a common sense approach: "We know this worked before: Lets have ____ size limit & ___ creel limit while we await the new MRIP program's data." Such an approach could easily keep our fish populations stable--growing even--while we recalibrate for MRIP and seek truth from the carcass of a not-yet-shredded and land-filled MRFSS.. We fishers will Rally at the Capitol on Feb 24th before noon. We will press ahead. We will try to bring sense to all this. There can only be one winner; but since MRFSS has already been replaced by a new recreational catch program called MRIP, there could be two losers. No.. Not without a fight. If the first wave of troops can not be rejuvenated with a short rest then fishers must send their pleas higher, to the Secretaries and Under Secretaries, to their Senators & Congressmen, indeed to the White House. We must not let a discredited catch-estimation statistical program--MRFSS--take out a large part of the recreational for-hire industry just before MRFSS gets run through the shredder.. The States; The lower orders of Federal Government -NMFS & NOAA - are shell shocked. Fishers must now reach higher. Fishers must also encourage our marine regulators to snap out of it and join us in our fight against bad data. I could bring this letter to a close right but I press-on; show a few examples of MRFSS data that has had real economic impact despite there being no possible logical agreement with the data...... In Ocean City, Maryland, our partyboat clients outnumber shore fishers targeting flounder most days--I mean really outnumber the shore fishers. We, the party and charter boats of Maryland, very likely fish harder and better -with more knowledge & with more maneuverability: We certainly cover far more bottom than shore fishers. I think these MRFSS numbers, these statistically generated catch estimates are still too high for party/charter --but-- here, in this example are probably within a couple hundred fish of being perfectly correct. Keep in mind that this first data set represents the clients of For-Hire professional captains and--very importantly--is for the year, the whole year: And, for MRFSS, these are great--nearly perfect--estimates. Species: SUMMER FLOUNDER - All For Hire - All Waves - Annual Year HARVEST (TYPE A + B1) PSE 2006 2,314 21.8 2007 2,639 16.5 2008 2,337 18.6 2009 2,774 38.7 This next set is Maryland's recreational shore effort. Granted, there are shore fishers that are very good at catching fish -- I'd wager they complain about party boats catching way too many. We want visitors to catch fish! But, despite some local sharpies, no one would say every shore angler is a trained ninja.. These next MRFSS catch estimates are for Shore Fishers in a single Wave, a Two Month Period---Not All Year as above--Two Months, Wave 5, September & October - Not an annual catch estimate. Species: SUMMER FLOUNDER - Wave 5 - MD - Shore Effort - September/October Year HARVEST (TYPE A + B1) PSE 2006 0 0 2007 36,017 48.4 2008 14,962 51.8 That's one shore-effort two month wave vs. a party & charter boat's annual catch.. 36,017 caught in two months ashore vs. 2,639 by professionals. That's the data that affects us--makes us appear to have greedily gone far over-quota; the data that makes size limits go up & creel limits go down.. all with shorter seasons. Look at the numbers again. That is happening in America. Its every bit as bad in these same years for the 'private/rental boat' MRFSS category. We fought these data sets hard. In the end it was a "Can't prove a negative" a "Can't push with a rope" argument that kept fishers from having some truth brought in: That all there had to be was more fishers, hundreds of thousands of them I suppose, and they would have indeed caught those kinds of fish - NMFS won.. Always does. What a bunch of horse-feathers. And now, outflanking sea bass fishers---red snapper too I hear-told---is another battalion of these crazy catch estimates, the MRFSS catch-estimates that could only be loved by a crazed statistician--because the ones I know, sane, don't like this type of data at all.. We can not push with a rope, We can not argue a negative until true; No one can assert enough proof.. From Wiki: "The argumentum ad ignorantiam [fallacy] is committed whenever it is argued that a proposition is true simply on the basis that it has not been proven false.." But, look, when you're the government this argument works fine.. All there ever had to be to achieve any catch estimate was more fishers, lots and lots of imaginary fishers... More. In each of the following two-month data sets MRFSS asserts 2009 to have been fantastically-incredibly better than any cbass fishing previously known to anglers in these northern regions. Here too MRFSS asserts that our fisheries bureaucracy allowed the entirety of the coast's black sea bass quota to be captured in one region, despite the proof that habitat fidelity would make that a tragically ruinous event for a single region's fish 'stock' or population.. A quick glance; call it as you see it. Species: BLACK SEA BASS - Wave 4 - Private Boat - MA Year HARVEST (TYPE A + B1) PSE 2007 13,062 71.3 2008 13,548 69.4 2009 165,595 25.6 Species: BLACK SEA BASS - Wave 3 - Party Boat - MA Year HARVEST (TYPE A + B1) PSE 2007 3,015 31.1 2008 526 19 2009 77,136 32 Wave 2 NJ Party Boats Species: BLACK SEA BASS Year HARVEST (TYPE A + B1) PSE 2005 61 71.1 2006 30 99.6 2008 134 100.1 2009 20,543 37.7 Wave 2, 1998 - 2009 New Jersey, Private Species: BLACK SEA BASS Year HARVEST (TYPE A + B1) PSE 2002 9,921 92.9 2007 3,302 74.1 2009 34,418 56.4 Years ago ol' Doc Mann, a WWII combat medic vet, used to stitch-up our bait cutting & fish cleaning slices without a local; all while chain smoking Marlboros in the treatment room. Soviet and other European factory trawlers used to routinely ply our waters in competition with a growing American fleet. An era past; This was overfishing! That and the single greatest loss of seafloor habitat in the world, the unregulated hydraulic-super-dredge surf clam boom: It's all part of our fishing history. So is MRFSS. Many fishing businesses are finely balanced in this already adverse economic environment. I know there is nothing but zeros where I once had a retirement nest egg; I know last fall my boat ran fantastically light, sometimes without prayer of a day's profit; I know this spring the same thing will happen again. This restored boat, her skilled crew, her skipper of 30 years professional experience; This boat where so many veterans of both war and fishing have had a smile cross their face, where fathers and sons have enjoyed an experience unlike that which can be found ashore, and along her rails where small children have come to be fascinated with our marine world: This boat and many others stand to be lost because we could not win the fool's argument, because we let blatantly bad data into an already shaky system.. A system whose data must be extracted from beneath the sea and, apparently, from thin-air. Its not good governance and needs to change. It will be letters struck on a keyboard; pen to paper that wins this fight. There will be no real bullets, no real bombs.. The bankruptcies however.. Shake it off! Back to the front! Set aside the MRFSS data - or at least truth these sets with data submitted by professionals -- the Vessel Trip Reports, VTRs.. Find some truth. The Fish are doing fine. Save the Fishers. I'll see you in DC. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 http://www.morningstarfishing.com/ Opening tog trips for this weekend coming - Feb 20-21-22 - West winds forecasted - Boat sells out at 12 - Green crabs provided - Cabin heated - Leave at 7:00 for these trips (or a tad earlier) - Return no later than 3 - 3:30 (usually) - $100.00 buys a spot - Reservation a must, that phone number in signature - Email does not work for reservations - call - leave a good phone number, cell, in case of cancellation. Also opening the book for sea bass trips from May 22cnd to the end of June. Even though these dates are not 100%, I'm pretty sure we'll have open season then. The folks at the reservation service are ready to book.
  19. Fish Report 3/12/10 CG Inspection Stuff Culled Out.. Truth in Fisheries Hi All, Get my life-raft back I'm going fishing. Have scheduled a CG safety inspection for early April. The most important thing happens at the end of every day: People walk off the boat. Getting ready for and having CG inspections is about never swimming off the boat... We've done some maintenance, will do some more between fishing trips. Have to get that life raft back though before we fish. By then the water should be ready for another try at tautog. An article has absolutely blown up on the web--Culled Out. It fit a model that some would like to see moved forward and was even picked up by a major news outfit--Fox. ESPN has apologized http://sports.espn.go.com/outdoors/saltwater/columns/story?columnist=bowman_steve&id=4982359 Snopes has blasted it http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/fishingban.asp A student of propaganda could make a study of it.. It just so happens that I was at a meeting today (3/12/10) of the Coastal and Watershed Resources Committee where the ongoing activities of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean --yes, MARCO-- and Marine Spatial Planning, MSP were discussed. Our region's contribution to Ocean Policy --MARCO-- was the last Regional Council to form under Bush 43's guidance. MSP is its crucial tool; cutting edge charting, zoning, a way to permit big-energy so they can get busy with wind & oil. I absolutely promise; This my deepest, fullest guarantee: Had I not been at this meeting that discussed MSP & Ocean Policy the word 'Fish' would not have been uttered. Energy people & policy wonks are not concerned with fishing. At all. Unless they are forced to be because there is an overlap. There is. MARCO & MSP---our Ocean Policy--is about Energy - Big Energy. I am active in voicing comment because I think Big Energy isn't going to give the south end of a north-bound rat if we "Used to fish there".. I'm there to protect our region's fishing grounds--All of 'em. It so happens too that coral reefs remain un-found off our coast.. Right where they want some windmills. I want wind-power too--Big Time. Carefully. And I want Big-Energy's help.. This week, and many others, big-water trawlers towed across corals that no human has laid eyes on and caught the heck out of fish in 50 - 60 fathoms. I'd wager their dead-discards would keep us fishing this season.. We remain ignorant of habitat crucial to our region's fisheries. I think big-energy will be the impetus, the driver, for its discovery. We fishers ought to make sure. Sakes knows the flame that Jacques Cousteau ignited, that spirit of discovery that sent a generation of explorers to sea, has seemingly died--or been buried in bureaucracy.. Corals that no human has seen - Really. The flounder you might catch in a back-creek in coastal Virginia or on the edge of the shoal behind OC's convention center will spend the winter in the deep--near the canyons. The squid that fed a white marlin until it ate a ballyhoo.. It all ties together. I wrote the piece below as on Op-Ed. Will make as much noise as possible when my raft is back. Goin' Fishin. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 http://www.morningstarfishing.com/ "Obama administration will accept no more public input for federal fishery strategy" shouts the headline. "No More Input" decries the article titled "Culled Out." The Interagency Policy Task-Force --every guvmint agency with ocean ties & all the regional councils like MARCO-- filed a framework report that included the Marine Spatial Planning that's been chugging along for a good while. A framework report cause for alarm? Odd, I never saw a 60 day comment period closing as such big news. True though; No more input. At least until the next phase. Been better to shout it out when the comment period was open; Get people to examine it. There was a window to comment months ago on the interim report too; many public meetings. Marine Spatial Planning, MSP.. so much controversy. "Entire Watersheds Could Be Shut Down" this article cries. MSP is not about creating fish quotas. For many fishers that's all management is, the next quota review: It's what fishermen pay attention to. Our Ocean Policy and Marine Spatial Planning is about Windmills and Drill Baby Drill. It's a way minimize conflict and, if we pay attention, MSP can ensure that culturally important fishing grounds and fish habitat aren't needlessly lost as we press on with new energy for our nation. Ever heard of the nearshore corals off Maryland? I wish you had: YouTube Common Seafloor Habitat Mid-Atlantic. Ocean Policy, including Marine Spatial Planning, isn't about taking away fishing areas; It's about preserving them as the US moves into a new era of energy development. These government task forces are charged with Promoting Energy. Sustainably if possible. Any other tasks are a distant second: I seriously doubt stealing our fishing spots is one of them. They could run us over by accident though. Have to let them know we're here. I made comments on the draft policy and final framework; received feedback too. The next policy phase will seek more charting input from fishers. I know it will in our region. But that will be after the sport-fish conference call on March 15th with NMFS's new head, Eric Schwaab: And after the rec-fish summit in mid-April in Silver Spring. These are giant communications steps. Never been done before to my knowledge. Critical time too. As a party boat operator in Ocean City, MD. with 30 years experience, I am fighting for my business' very existence because of recreational catch-estimate data rotten enough to make a menhaden processing plant blush. As fishery rebuilding plans have advanced--often with great success--the effects of less than perfect marine science and data's complex illusions are creating havoc as we close in on some species' restoration. For instance: In September & October 2007 shore fishers targeting flounder in Maryland are officially estimated to have caught what MD party & charter boats will catch in 15 years. We are often falsely accused of going over-quota; Have repeatedly fought the data and lost: Lost because we could not prove guys fishing on the bank weren't catching like an Alaskan factory trawler: Lost because 36,017 flounder from shore in two months seemed to regulators a reasonable number even if Maryland's professional crews caught well under 3,000 that year: Lost because although the data is astonishingly poor, as the 'best science available' it is inarguable--It must be used. We suffer shortened seasons, emergency closures, size limit increases and creel limit reductions because of statistical analysis that, literally, couldn't survive the light of day. This bad data is building, cumulative: Getting worse. Marine Spatial Planning is not the problem nor will it be. Fishermen would be foolish to allow big-energy in without some manner of safety-net. America does need to move forward with energy policy. Fishers need to look ahead as well. Oil wells and windmills will actually contribute to marine production, will create reef communities. However, as the Chesapeake's fishers learned with the closing of the gas-docks by Homeland Security, sometimes what's good for fish doesn't remain good for fishermen. I'm proud to tell you Maryland's coastal anglers did not wait for the government; That we had self imposed regulations on many species long before management--sometimes 1/2 a decade before regulation; That we have privately funded much of our reef restoration/creation: That we are staunch conservationists.. whose businesses are being destroyed by bad catch data, poor stock assessments: A general lack of flexibility. Even the skippers fishing after WWII never had ocean flounder fishing as we now do. Still 'rebuilding' the summer flounder population though. There's been no discovery of those corals I mentioned earlier; especially the areas long-lost. Regulators fail to realize the positive effect of artificial reef construction on black sea bass & tautog populations: Haven't calculated the negative effects of losing enormous swaths of once productive reef-like seafloor either. Recognize numbers on paper though.. Use it too, no matter how rotten. The challenges of rebuilding, fishing on rebuilt stocks, and finding those species left behind are not insurmountable. Bureaucratic rigidity is making it mighty hard though.. All those fishermen, commercial & recreational, that recently rallied in DC were there for the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act. Fishers need managers that can manage as we navigate; Follow a compass course yes, but dodge a new sand-bar.. Held rigidly to data sets of ill-found science --this math that would have made Madoff's staff envious-- our regulators are running us hard-aground. There's no Flexibility in the Great Recession.. That is destroying the fishers. What fishermen need now is truth & wisdom: Truth in stock assessments, Truth in catch estimates, Truth in news reporting and Wisdom in our governance. Strikes me we could use some of that near-everywhere. Capt. Monty Hawkins Berlin, MD.
  20. Fish Report 3/18/10 Going Fishing Pins & Needles Hi All, We should have the inflatable life-raft back in its cradle by nightfall 3/18/10. Very confident of that.. barring calamity on the highway; we will. The water temp at the weather buoy off the MD/DE line is at 41.9 as I write. That's warm enough: But is it all the way down? No one got out last weekend in that horrible weather. We'll have to go see if they're biting-----It Is Not A Sure Bet. Just two trips with this email: Friday, March 19th & Saturday, March 20th. Light winds forecasted - Boat sells out at 12 - Green crabs provided - Cabin heated - Leave at 7:00 for these trips (or a tad earlier) - Return no later than 3 - 3:30 (usually) - $100.00 buys a spot - Reservation a must, that phone number in signature - Email does not work for reservations - Call - Leave a good phone number--Cell--in case of cancellation. (..here if the life-raft somehow fails to arrive!) Minimum Number Of People For These Trips Is Zero - I'm Going Fishing. Sea Bass by Federal Regulation remains undecided. Maryland's summer flounder too. Managers & Regulators spend much time now putting out fires, distracted. The closer I get to all this, the more I see that the fire's fuel is data; Ignition in misrepresentation: That the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey--MRFSS--and Data-Poor Stock Assessments are the fuel; Using the exact center of these statistical spreads to create a single, hard data point creates ignition. The problem is the data - It really is. Maryland rec fishers did not go over quota on flounder in 2008. All the states fishing Long Island Sound should bloody well have a simple, reasonable creel limit---New York should not have to consider, say, a 2 fish limit at 22 inches. It's ludicrous. The whole coast did not overharvest sea bass last year. When Maryland is said to have caught 30+ thousand flounder in two months from shore in 2007 - Our guys, after deepest consideration, think 600 is more realistic for that period. Not 600,000 --Not the 36,017 official catch estimate-- Just 600. Years and Years of accumulated bad data. Managers & Regulators in opposition to each other within the states and between states, combat at the federal level--These struggles can be as brutal as what we witness currently on Capitol Hill... I picture ancient Mayan Priests arguing how many humans to sacrifice to appease their gods; To get the best result from multiple killings of humans in ritualistic fashion.. Perhaps lower priests were made to carry out the orders of the high priests. They believed, they really believed it was the best thing they could do. Well documented. We can't guess how many died*. Most theologians today would argue that was using bad data.. *(OK, maybe MRFSS could.) Here--Now--While managers argue the best way forward for fisheries restoration using these unsupportable MRFSS & Data-Poor stock estimates, the economic vitality of recreational fishing slips away; wasted upon the stone-carved gutters of useless sacrifice. It could all change by order of a high-priest.. Red Snapper, Black Sea Bass, even Summer Flounder --where we seem to have selected for flounder that use robust reef-- are among the Data-Poor fisheries. Here data is collected knowing it is lacking, but is used as Hard-Data -- even though it's far more a "Best Guess." Data-Poor is what the science & management communities call it, it's their term. Fishers call it.. well, nevermind. I try to keep polite language here.. On a desk cluttered with papers these estimates seem more credible, more plausible while camouflaged amidst better science. On a fillet table that hasn't been used much recently, they find less traction. I think this is rock-bottom of the fisheries--our nadir; That MRIP, the new federal registration where they can actually count participants, will bring substantially more truth to our catch estimates. Many think I'm far too optimistic, that we'll never get a fair shake. Time will tell.. ..tell about the tog bite next couple days too. Going Fishing! Cheers, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 http://www.morningstarfishing.com/
  21. Obama moving to limit fishing access - ESPN The Obama administration has ended public input for a federal strategy that could prohibit U.S. citizens from fishing some of the nation's oceans, coastal areas, Great Lakes, and even inland waters. Anglering for access united we fish rally capitol washington fishing AP/Luis M. AlvarezOne sign at the United We Fish rally at the Capital summed up the feelings of recreational and commercial fishermen. This announcement comes at the time when the situation supposedly still is "fluid" and the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force still hasn't issued its final report on zoning uses of these waters. Fishing industry insiders, who have negotiated for months with officials at the Council on Environmental Quality and bureaucrats on the task force, had grown concerned that the public input would not be taken into account. "When the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) completed their successful campaign to convince the Ontario government to end one of the best scientifically managed big-game hunts in North America (spring bear), the results of their agenda had severe economic impacts on small family businesses and the tourism economy of communities across northern and central Ontario," said Phil Morlock, director of environmental affairs for Shimano. "Now we see NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the administration planning the future of recreational fishing access in America based on a similar agenda of these same groups and other Big Green anti-use organizations, through an Executive Order by the President. The current U.S. direction with fishing is a direct parallel to what happened in Canada with hunting: The negative economic impacts on hard-working American families and small businesses are being ignored. "In spite of what we hear daily in the press about the President's concern for jobs and the economy and contrary to what he stated in the June order creating this process, we have seen no evidence from NOAA or the task force that recreational fishing and related jobs are receiving any priority." Unless more anglers speak up to their Congressional representatives so their input will be considered, it appears the task force will issue a final report for "marine spatial planning" by late March. President Barack Obama then could possibly issue an Executive Order to implement its recommendations. Led by NOAA's Jane Lubchenco, the task force has shown no overt dislike of recreational angling. As ESPN previously reported, WWF, Greenpeace, Defenders of Wildlife, Pew Environment Group and others produced a document entitled "Transition Green" shortly after Obama was elected in 2008. What has happened since suggests that the task force has been in lockstep with that position paper, according to Morlock. In late summer, just after the administration created the task force, these groups produced "Recommendations for the Adoption and Implementation of an Oceans, Coasts, and Great Lakes National Policy." This document makes repeated references to "overfishing," but doesn't reference recreational angling, its importance, and its benefits, both to participants and the resource. Additionally, some of these same organizations have revealed their anti-fishing bias with their attempts to ban tackle containing lead in the United States and Canada. Also, recreational angling and commercial fishing have been lumped together as harmful to the resource, despite protests by the angling industry. Morlock's evidence of collusion -- the green groups began clamoring for an Executive Order to implement the task force's recommendations even before the public comment period ended in February. On Feb. 12, the New York Times reported on that "President Obama and his team are preparing an array of actions using his executive power to advance energy, environmental, fiscal and other domestic policy priorities." Anglering for access Click here for archive Morlock fears that "what we're seeing coming at us is an attempted dismantling of the science-based fish and wildlife model that has served us so well. There's no basis in science for the agendas of these groups who are trying to push the public out of being able to fish and recreate. "Conflicts (user) are overstated and problems are manufactured. It's all just an excuse to put us off the water." In the wake of the task force's framework document, the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation (CSF) and its partners in the U.S. Recreational Fishing & Boating Coalition again voiced their concerns to the administration. "Some of the potential policy implications of this interim framework have the potential to be a real threat to recreational anglers who not only contribute billions of dollars to the economy and millions of dollars in tax revenues to support fisheries conservation, but who are also the backbone of the American fish and wildlife conservation ethic," said CSF President Jeff Crane. Morlock, a member of the CSF board, added, "There are over one million jobs in America supported coast to coast by recreational fishing. The task force has not included any accountability requirements in their reports for evaluating or mitigating how the new policies they are drafting will impact the fishing industry or related economies. "Given that the scope of this process appears to include a new set of policies for all coastal and inland waters of the United States, the omission of economic considerations is inexcusable." This is not the only access issue threatening the public's right to fish, but it definitely is the most serious, according to Chris Horton, national conservation director for BASS. "With what's being created, the same principles could apply inland as apply to the oceans," he said. "Under the guise of 'marine spatial planning' entire watersheds could be shut down, even 2,000 miles up a river drainage from the ocean. "Every angler needs to be aware because if it's not happening in your backyard today or tomorrow, it will be eventually. "We have one of the largest voting blocks in the country and we need to use it. We must not sit idly by."
  22. The Obama administration will accept no more public input for a federal strategy that could prohibit U.S. citizens from fishing some of the nation's oceans, coastal areas, Great Lakes, and even inland waters. AP/Luis M. Alvarez One sign at the United We Fish rally at the Capital summed up the feelings of recreational and commercial fishermen. This announcement comes at the time when the situation supposedly still is "fluid" and the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force still hasn't issued its final report on zoning uses of these waters. That's a disappointment, but not really a surprise for fishing industry insiders who have negotiated for months with officials at the Council on Environmental Quality and bureaucrats on the task force. These angling advocates have come to suspect that public input into the process was a charade from the beginning. "When the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) completed their successful campaign to convince the Ontario government to end one of the best scientifically managed big game hunts in North America (spring bear), the results of their agenda had severe economic impacts on small family businesses and the tourism economy of communities across northern and central Ontario," said Phil Morlock, director of environmental affairs for Shimano. "Now we see NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the administration planning the future of recreational fishing access in America based on a similar agenda of these same groups and other Big Green anti-use organizations, through an Executive Order by the President. The current U.S. direction with fishing is a direct parallel to what happened in Canada with hunting: The negative economic impacts on hard working American families and small businesses are being ignored. "In spite of what we hear daily in the press about the President's concern for jobs and the economy and contrary to what he stated in the June order creating this process, we have seen no evidence from NOAA or the task force that recreational fishing and related jobs are receiving any priority." Consequently, unless anglers speak up and convince their Congressional representatives to stop this bureaucratic freight train, it appears that the task force will issue a final report for "marine spatial planning" by late March, with President Barack Obama then issuing an Executive Order to implement its recommendations — whatever they may be. Led by NOAA's Jane Lubchenco, the task force has shown no overt dislike of recreational angling, but its indifference to the economic, social and biological value of the sport has been deafening. Additionally, Lubchenco and others in the administration have close ties to environmental groups who would like nothing better than to ban recreational angling. And evidence suggests that these organizations have been the engine behind the task force since before Obama issued a memo creating it last June. As ESPN previously reported, WWF, Greenpeace, Defenders of Wildlife, Pew Environment Group and others produced a document entitled "Transition Green" shortly after Obama was elected in 2008. What has happened since suggests that the task force has been in lockstep with that position paper. Then in late summer, just after he created the task force, these groups produced "Recommendations for the Adoption and Implementation of an Oceans, Coasts, and Great Lakes National Policy." This document makes repeated references to "overfishing," but doesn't once reference recreational angling, its importance, and its benefits, both to participants and the resource. Additionally, some of these same organizations have revealed their anti-fishing bias by playing fast and loose with "facts," in attempts to ban tackle containing lead in the United States and Canada. That same tunnel vision, in which recreational angling and commercial fishing are indiscriminately lumped together as harmful to the resource, has persisted with the task force, despite protests by the angling industry. As more evidence of collusion, the green groups began clamoring for an Executive Order to implement the task force's recommendations even before the public comment period ended in February. Fishing advocates had no idea that this was coming. Perhaps not so coincidentally, the New York Times reported on Feb. 12 that "President Obama and his team are preparing an array of actions using his executive power to advance energy, environmental, fiscal and other domestic policy priorities." Click here for archiveMorlock fears that "what we're seeing coming at us is an attempted dismantling of the science-based fish and wildlife model that has served us so well. There's no basis in science for the agendas of these groups who are trying to push the public out of being able to fish and recreate. "Conflicts (user) are overstated and problems are manufactured. It's all just an excuse to put us off the water." In the wake of the task force's framework document, the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation (CSF) and its partners in the U.S. Recreational Fishing & Boating Coalition against voiced their concerns to the administration. "Some of the potential policy implications of this interim framework have the potential to be a real threat to recreational anglers who not only contribute billions of dollars to the economy and millions of dollars in tax revenues to support fisheries conservation, but who are also the backbone of the American fish and wildlife conservation ethic," said CSF President Jeff Crane. Morlock, a member of the CSF board, added, "There are over one million jobs in America supported coast to coast by recreational fishing. The task force has not included any accountability requirements in their reports for evaluating or mitigating how the new policies they are drafting will impact the fishing industry or related economies. "Given that the scope of this process appears to include a new set of policies for all coastal and inland waters of the United States, the omission of economic considerations is inexcusable." This is not the only access issue threatening the public's right to fish, but it definitely is the most serious, according to Chris Horton, national conservation director for BASS. "With what's being created, the same principles could apply inland as apply to the oceans," he said. "Under the guise of 'marine spatial planning' entire watersheds could be shut down, even 2,000 miles up a river drainage from the ocean. "Every angler needs to be aware because if it's not happening in your backyard today or tomorrow, it will be eventually. "We have one of the largest voting blocks in the country and we need to use it. We must not sit idly by." This is an opinion column from Robert Montgomery. As a Senior Writer for BASS Publications, Montgomery has written about conservation, environment, and access issues for more than two decades.
  23. anyone going? FISHERMEN TO MARCH ON WASHINGTON "United We Fish" To Seek Congressional Support On February 24 In a historic show of solidarity, recreational and commercial fishermen will gather together on the steps of the Capitol on February 24, 2010 from noon until 3 p.m. in an organized demonstration against the unintended negative impacts of the Magnuson Stevens Conservation and Management Act (MSA), the federal fisheries law which was revised in January of 2007. Coordinating the march under the flag of United We Fish, rally organizers are hoping to see a large show of force in defense of coastal communities. "The closures keep coming and it's good to see the collective fishing communities and industries, both recreational and commercial, calling for scientific based Magnuson reform," said Jim Donofrio, Executive Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA). "We are all in this together." Donofrio cited recent closures of amberjack, black sea bass and red snapper fisheries as examples of what he calls a "broken" federal fisheries law. The groups organized through United We Fish are hoping to prove to legislators just how many American anglers and business owners are truly being impacted by the overly restrictive management requirements created by MSA based on non scientific arbitrary deadlines. According to Bob Zales of the Conservation Cooperative of Gulf Fishermen (CCGF), the time-specific deadlines mandated by MSA coupled with flawed data collection methods are forcing anglers off the water. "We fully support real science based management and the conservation of our marine resources while also being able to sustain recreational and commercial fishing activities, providing locally caught seafood, sustaining small family businesses, and supporting our coastal communities." This effort is being coordinated by many organizations and individuals including but not limited to the RFA, CCGF, United Boatmen of New York, United Boatmen of New Jersey, New York Sportfishing Federation, Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association and the Fishing Rights Alliance. "Some people have asked 'why, it's winter'," said Donofrio who said he's gotten the required permits and expects a large crowd in DC on February 24th, regardless of weather. "We can't let seasons stop the momentum, and if we wait any longer none of us will be fishing. Many members of Congress will be standing shoulder to shoulder with us," Donofrio said. Nils Stolpe, a consultant to the commercial fishing industry and columnist for SavingSeafood.org said that over the past three decades since the original Magnuson Act was established, fishermen have been gradually phased out of the fisheries management process, regardless of sector. "The scientists have been put in charge, and as the list of closures and restrictions up above painfully demonstrates, the Act has been turned into a weapon that is now being used against fishermen and fishing communities." U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) first introduced the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act of 2008 in the 110th Congress to incorporate "limited flexibility" into federal fisheries management. More than 100 fishing groups and industry members from around the country pledged their support for the legislation and the bill's 19 bipartisan coastal cosponsors, but the bill languished during the volatile economic climate in advance of the presidential elections in November of 2008. Realizing that fisheries closures would continue without congressional intervention, in March of this year, Rep. Pallone and fellow Representatives John Adler (D-NJ), Henry Brown, Jr. (R-SC), Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL), Barney Frank (D-MA), Walter B. Jones, Jr. (R-NC), Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), Frank LoBiondo (D-NJ), Mike McIntyre (D-NC), Michael Michaud (D-ME), Solomon Ortiz (D-TX) and John Tierney (D-MA), reintroduced the Flexibility in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act of 2009 (HR 1584). Twenty-five total co-sponsors have since pledged support to date including Rob Andrews (D-NJ), Timothy Bishop (D-NY), Allen Boyd (D-FL), Joe Courtney (D-CT), Peter King (R-NY), Rob Wittman (R-VA), Jo Bonner (R-AL), John Mica (R-FL), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH), Clifford Stearns (R-FL), Donna Christensen (D-VI), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), and Ander Crenshaw (R-FL). "New York's Senator Schumer is as concerned about his fishing constituents as he is about the fish, just as Congressmen Pallone, Frank, Jones, LoBiondo, Kennedy, Adler and others in the House of Representatives are," said Stolpe. "Hence they have formed the nucleus of a growing movement in Congress that, in spite of the editorial opinion of the New York Times and the expenditure of many millions of dollars by the Pew Charitable Trusts, is aimed at preserving recreational and commercial fishing, the lifestyles of millions of fishermen, and the tens of thousands of businesses and hundreds of fishing communities that they support," Stolpe added. Following a letter-writing campaign by the RFA-NY and members of the New York Sportfishing Federation, senior Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York announced his Senate version of the bill (S.1255). Currently, the Senate bill to correct the flaws in MSA has no co-sponsors, which is something United We Fish organizers are hoping will change in February. Organizers from within the recreational fishing sector are hoping to get commitment from all user groups and across varied state and regional boundaries. "This is much bigger than any one state issue or individual grievance," said RFA's Managing Director Jim Hutchinson, Jr. "Whether it's our restrictive fluke fishery in New York, the arbitrary closure of state waters for our anglers in California, or the shutdown of red snapper and amberjack down south, our community has been divided by preservationist tactics for too long. It's time to unite the clans in defense of our coastal heritage and traditions," Hutchinson said. "We need to let Congress and NOAA know that we are the collective voice of the recreational fishing community and the collective voice does not accept the current broken management system which wreaks such havoc on all of us and our businesses," said Donofrio, adding "The goal on February 24th will be to get all of our congressional friends to attend." "At this point Senator Schumer and his Congressional colleagues in the House deserve the thanks and the support of every one of us who fishes, whether for fun or profit," said Stolpe. The United We Fish rally is set for 2/24/10 at noon at the Capitol. For details as they become available, sign up for the RFA's email newsletter on the homepage at Recreational Fishing Alliance - Join the RFA.
  24. Anglers in MD and VA will also need a FIN number this year. For more info on the FIN number go to www.countmyfish.noaa.gov or call the toll free number and get it in a few minutes. 1-888-MRIP411 (1-888-674-7411) </pre>
  25. Fish Report 9/13/09 Flounder Go Out With a Fizzle Sea Bass Bite - Weeding Pandas Hi All, The ocean settled well after that NE wind all last week. Average sea height 20 feet at 2AM Friday morning - was a nice day Saturday. Amazing. Not too surprising was the flounder's response to all the foul weather. Well, I don't know their 'response' precisely - but they sure didn't bite! Nicked a few flatties but changed focus to sea bass. They were biting. Biting just as well as an old-time November pull, only now we have 2009 regulations. A lot had to go back. I suppose krill are too camouflaged in the now-very dirty water for sea bass to feed on. Back to the bottom; best bite I've seen since May. Weeding in September? That's what I call it when you catch a lot of smalls to every keeper - usually late October through November. One poor guy had to bear his buddies catching a nice keeper here and there while he worked defense -- doing his best to keep the smalls busy & away from their hooks. Forty seven shorts in a row.. His line breaks with a 3 pounder at the rail. He did come back - put some in the box. That's sorta like 10 weather cancelations in 14 days. Ouch. Ocean's completely jumbled up: sand sharks, small croakers, small sea trout, small blues - fish I would expect to see just off the beach were found offshore in 100+ feet of water. I hope to find croakers settled by size shortly. Fish like Cathy's 18 incher Sunday would be nice. I will focus mostly on cbass through at least October, but will mix it up with croaker if worthy. I've also saved a lot of tags for the inevitable fluke that we'll have to release now that they're closed.. MRFSS, the marine recreational fisheries statistic survey, has become not only the single greatest threat to my and other recreational fisher's livelihood - it remains the foremost distraction to real fisheries restoration. Slaying the beast is MRIP - the new federal fishing license that will allow the collection of much better data. Designers say the acronym means Marine Recreational Information Program. I'm thinking it really means Mrfss Rest In Peace. Would that it might.. I/we can never prove there's been an overestimation. There's always a data-poor situation in which 'there could have been more fishers' -trained killers at that- who might have caught the rest of the estimate. That's why there needs to be a license - to count all participants. Strikes me that if something's not falsifiable - its not scientific. There's a big divide between the politics of fishery management and fisheries science. In an attempt to close that divide managers have had to use MRFSS statistics like hard data because that's all there is - there is no other source. Except what fishers tell them. Though we can never prove they have overestimated; time after time it can be proved that MRFSS has under-estimated. No one can disprove -falsify- a fishing overestimate. Dern sure we can falsify some underestimates. Should be a stake in Dracula's heart - scientifically dead. Won't be. As I pointed out last week, on a one day tagging trip in 2002 with National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) - Maryland DNR Fisheries & Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council staff (MAFMC) there were 1,150 BSB tagged. We boxed-up a bunch for dinner too. Now MRFSS has the entirety of Maryland's 2009 recreational cbass catch --all charter, party & private boats --everyone-- forecasted at 1,192 fish. Tagged 1,150 in one day, on one boat - The whole fleet killed 1,192 in a year. That 2009 data point is from the very set that almost closed the whole coast's scup, sea bass & fluke fishing. If everyone in fisheries, people that would never question the validity of the day's tagging data, believed this year's estimate I'd hope for a serious investigation into the crash of sea bass. Instead, I doubt seriously that MDDNR Fisheries, MAFMC, ASMFC, NOAA, NMFS, nor anyone else has faith in that 2009 estimate at all - not a soul. Since they can not believe that number, management then ought to gather an estimate that's more realistic. They would have to turn to fishers for that. Perhaps while they're at it --redoing a MRFSS estimate-- they, using reasonable proofs that participants offer, may want to change some overestimates that we fishers don't believe.. In a few short years MRIP will have fully replaced MRFSS. Catch estimates will be much firmer. As simply as Dr. Semmelweis' hand washing after autopsy prevented many women's birthing deaths -- allowing common sense evaluation of catch estimates could save this industry... And turn our attentions back to the real problem at hand - fisheries restoration. Chinese panda restoration focused on stock replenishment - making more bears. Zoos must now be found for newborns because there's not enough wild habitat. Shall we house our wild stocks in aquariums until we resolve habitat & prey issues? There is a tremendous amount of discovery left to do. Work that will not even get started while opponents are hunkered in the trenches. A very simple set of creel limits set coastwide --with some wiggle room-- could be made while MRIP comes alive. I know what overfishing looked like. This ain't it. Our focus must broaden in order to achieve our goals. Regards, Monty Capt. Monty Hawkins mhawkins@siteone.net Party Boat "Morning Star" Reservation Line 410 520 2076 Morning Star Fishing